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Hernando Cortez 





Akron, Ohio 





The career of Hernando Cortez is one of the most 
wild and adventurous recorded in the annals of fact 
or fiction, and yet all the prominent events in his 
wondrous history are well authenticated. All truth 
carries with itself an important moral. The writer, 
in this narrative, has simply attempted to give a 
vivid idea of the adventures of Cortez and his com- 
panions in the Conquest of Mexico. There are many 
inferences of vast moment to which the recital leads. 
These are so obvious that they need not be pointed 

681006 w 


Chapter Pagb 

















hernando cortez Frontispiece 





Herkando Cortez — M. of H. 



The Discovery of Mexico. 

The shore of America in 1492.— Doubt and alarm.— A light appears.— He 
watches the light.— The shore is seen.— The Spaniards land and are hos- 
pitably received. — Mexico is discovered. — Arts and sciences of the Mexi- 
cans.— The mines of precious metals.— Code of laws.— Punishments.— 
Slavery.— Military glory.— Mexican mythology.— The three states of 
existence.— Infant baptism. — Worship.— The temples and altars.— Mode 
of offering sacrifice.— City of Mexico.— Montezuma.— Civilization of the 
inhabitants. — The Governor of Cuba resolves to subjugate the country.— 
Motives for carrying on conquests. — Hernando Cortez. 

Only a very few centuries ago the ocean which 
washes the shores of America was one vast 
and silent solitude. No ship plowed its 
waves; no sail whitened its surface. On the nth of 
October, 1492, three small vessels might have been 
seen invading, for the first time, these hitherto un- 
known waters. They were as specks on the bosom 
of infinity. The sky above, the ocean beneath, gave 
no promise of any land. Three hundred adventurers 
were in these ships. Ten weeks had already passed 



since they saw the hills of the Old World sink beneath 
the horizon. 

For weary days and weeks they had strained their 
eyes looking toward the west, hoping to see the 
mountains of the New World rising in the distance. 
The illustrious adventurer, Christopher Columbus, who 
guided these frail barks, inspired by science and by 
faith, doubted not that a world would ere long emerge 
before him from the apparently boundless waters. But 
the blue sky still overarched them, and the heaving 
still extended in all directions its unbroken and in- 
terminable expanse. 

Discouragement and alarm now pervaded nearly 
all hearts, and there was a general clamor for return 
to the shores of Europe. Christopher Columbus, 
sublime in the confidence with which his exalted na- 
ture inspired him, was still firm and undaunted in 
his purpose. 

The night of the nth of October darkened over 
these lonely adventurers. The stars came out in all 
the brilliance of tropical splendor. A fresh breeze 
drove the ships with increasing speed over the bil- 
lows, and cooled, as with balmy zephyrs, brows 
heated through the day by the blaze of a meridian 
sun. Columbus could not sleep. He stood upon the 
deck of his ship, silent and sad, yet indomitable in 
energy, gazing with intense and unintermitted watch 
into the dusky distance. It was near midnight. 


Suddenly he saw a light, as of a torch, far off in the 
horizon. His heart throbbed with an irrepressible 
tumult of excitement. Was it a meteor, or was it a 
light from the Iong-wished-for land ? It disappeared, 
and all again was dark. But suddenly again it gleamed 
forth, feeble and dim in the distance, yet distinct. 
Soon again the exciting ray was quenched, and noth- 
ing disturbed the dark and somber outline of the sea. 
The long hours of the night to Columbus seemed in- 
terminable as he waited impatiently for the dawn. 
But even before any light was seen in the east, the 
dim outline of land appeared in indisputable distinct- 
ness before the eyes of the entranced, the now im- 
mortalized navigator. A cannon — the signal of the 
discovery — rolled its peal over the ocean, announcing 
to the two vessels in the rear the joyful tidings. A 
shout, excited by the heart's intensest emotions, rose 
over the waves, and with tears, with prayers, and em- 
braces, these enthusiastic men accepted the discovery 
of the New World. 

The bright autumnal morning dawned in richest 
glory, presenting to them a scene as of a celestial par- 
adise. The luxuriance of tropical vegetation bloomed 
in all its novelty around them. The inhabitants, 
many of them in the simple and innocent costume of 
Eden before the fall, crowded the shore, gazing with 
attitude and gesture of astonishment upon the strange 
phenomena of the ships. The adventurers landed, 

M. ofH.— XV— 2 


and were received upon the island of San Salvador as 
angels from heaven by the peaceful and friendly 
natives. Bitterly has the hospitality been requited. 
After cruising around for some time among the 
beautiful islands of the New World, Columbus re- 
turned to Spain to astonish Europe with the tidings 
of his discovery. He had been absent but seven 

A quarter of a century passed away, during which 
all the adventurers of Europe were busy exploring 
these newly-discovered islands and continents. Va- 
rious colonies were established in the fertile valleys of 
these sunny climes, and upon the hill-sides which 
emerged, in the utmost magnificence of vegetation, 
from the bosom of the Caribbean Sea. The eastern 
coast of North America had been during this time 
surveyed from Labrador to Florida. The bark of the 
navigator had discovered nearly all the islands of the 
West Indies, and had crept along the winding shores 
of the Isthmus of Darien, and of the South American 
continent as far as the River La Plata. Bold explor- 
ers, guided by intelligence received from the Indians, 
had even penetrated the interior of the isthmus, and 
from the summit of the central mountain barrier had 
gazed with delight upon the placid waves of the 
Pacific. But the vast indentation of the Mexican Gulf, 
sweeping far away, in an apparently interminable cir- 
cuit to the west, had not yet been penetrated. The 


field for romantic adventure which these unexplored 
realms presented could not, however, long escape the 
eye of that chivalrous age. 

Some exploring expeditions were soon fitted out 
from Cuba, and the shores of Mexico were discovered. 
Here every thing exhibited the traces of a far higher 
civilization than had hitherto been witnessed in the 
New World. There were villages, and even large 
cities, thickly planted throughout the country. Tem- 
ples and other buildings, imposing in massive archi- 
tecture, were reared of stone and lime. Armies, laws, 
and a symbolical form of writing indicated a very 
considerable advance in the arts and the energies of 
civilization. Many of the arts were cultivated. Cloth 
was made of cotton, and of skins nicely prepared. 
Astronomy was sufficiently understood for the accurate 
measurement of time in the divisions of the solar 
year. It is indeed a wonder, as yet unexplained, 
where these children of the New World acquired so 
philosophical an acquaintance with the movements of 
the heavenly bodies. Agriculture was practiced with 
much scientific skill, and a system of irrigation intro- 
duced, from which many a New England farmer 
might learn many a profitable lesson. Mines of gold, 
silver, lead, and copper were worked. Many articles 
of utility and of exquisite beauty were fabricated from 
these metals. Iron, the ore of which must pass 
through so many processes before it is prepared for 


use, was unknown to them. The Spanish goldsmiths, 
admiring the exquisite workmanship of the gold and 
silver ornaments of the Mexicans, bowed to their su- 

Fairs were held in the great market-places of the 
principal cities every fifth day, where buyers and sell- 
ers in vast numbers thronged. They had public 
schools, courts of justice, a class of nobles, and a 
powerful monarch. The territory embraced by this 
wonderful kingdom was twice as large as the whole 
of New England. 

The code of laws adopted by this strange people 
was very severe. They seemed to cherish but little 
regard for human life, and the almost universal pun- 
ishment for crime was death. This bloody code 
secured a very effective police. Adultery, thieving, 
removing landmarks, altering measures, defrauding a 
ward of property, intemperance, and even idleness, 
with spendthrift habits, were punished pitilessly with 
death. The public mind was so accustomed to this, 
that death lost a portion of its solemnity. The rites 
of marriage were very formally enacted, and very 
rigidly adhered to. 

Prisoners taken in war were invariably slain upon 
their religious altars in sacrifice to their gods. Slavery 
existed among them, but not hereditary. No one 
could be born a slave. The poor sometimes sold 
their children. The system existed in its mildest 


possible form, as there was no distinction of race be- 
tween the master and the slave. 

Military glory was held in high repute. Fanati- 
cism lent all its allurements to inspire the soldier. 
Large armies were trained to very considerable mili- 
tary discipline. Death upon the battle-field was a 
sure passport to the most sunny and brilliant realms 
of the heavenly world. The soldiers wore coats of 
mail of wadded cotton, which neither arrow nor jave- 
lin could easily penetrate. The chiefs wore over 
these burnished plates of silver and of gold. Silver 
helmets, also, often glittered upon the head. Hospi- 
tals were established for the sick and the wounded. 

Their religious system was an incongruous com- 
pound of beauty and of deformity — of gentleness and 
of ferocity. They believed in one supreme God, the 
Great Spirit, with several hundred inferior deities. 
The god of war was a very demon. The god of the 
air was a refined deity, whose altars were embellished 
with fruits and flowers, and upon whose ear the 
warbling of birds and the most plaintive strains of 
vocal melody vibrated sweetly. 

There were, in their imaginations, three states of 
existence in the future world. The good, and espe- 
cially those, of whatever character, who fell upon the 
field of battle, soared to the sun, and floated in aerial 
grace and beauty among the clouds, in peace and 
joy, never to be disturbed. The worthless, indifferent 


sort of people, neither good nor bad, found perhaps a 
congenial home in the monotony of a listless and al- 
most lifeless immortality, devoid of joy or grief. The 
wicked were imprisoned in everlasting darkness, 
where they could do no farther harm. 

It is an extraordinary fact that the rite of infant 
baptism existed among them. This fact is attested 
by the Spanish historians, who witnessed it with 
their own eyes, and who have recorded the truly 
Christian prayers offered on the occasion. As the in- 
fants were sprinkled with water, God was implored 
to wash them from original sin and to create them 
anew. Many of their prayers dimly reflected those 
pure and ennobling sentiments which shine so bril- 
liantly in the word of God. 

Their worship must have been a costly one, as 
the most majestic temples were reared, and an army 
of priests was supported. One single temple in the 
metropolis had five thousand priests attached to its 
service. The whole business of youthful instruction 
was confided to the priests. They received confes- 
sion, and possessed the power of absolution. 

The temples were generally pyramidal structures 
of enormous magnitude. Upon the broad area of 
their summits an altar was erected, where human 
victims, usually prisoners taken in war, were of- 
fered in sacrifice. These awful ceremonies were 
conducted with the most imposing pomp of music. 


banners, and military and ecclesiastical processions. 
The victim offered in sacrifice was bound immovably 
to the stone altar. The officiating priest, with a 
sharp instrument constructed of flint-like lava, cut 
open his breast, and tore out the warm and palpita- 
ting heart. This bloody sacrifice was presented in 
devout offering to the god. At times in the case of 
prisoners taken in war, the most horrid tortures were 
practiced before the bloody rite was terminated. 
When the gods seemed to frown, in dearth, or pesti- 
lence, or famine, large numbers of children were fre- 
quently offered in sacrifice. Thus the temples of 
Mexico were ever clotted with blood. Still more re- 
volting is the well-authenticated fact that the body of 
the wretched victim thus sacrificed was often served 
up as a banquet, and was eaten with every accom- 
paniment of festive rejoicing. It is estimated that 
from thirty to fifty thousand thus perished every year 
upon the altars of ancient Mexico. One of the great 
objects of their wars was to obtain victims for their 

The population of this vast empire is not known. 
It must have consisted, however, of several millions. 
The city of Mexico, situated on islands in the bosom 
of a lake in the center of a spacious and magnificent 
valley of the interior, about two hundred miles from 
the coast, was the metropolis of the realm. 

Montezuma was king, an aristocratic king, sur- 


rounded by nobles, upon whom he conferred all the 
honors and emoluments of the state. His palace was 
very magnificent. He was served from plates and 
goblets of silver and gold. Six hundred feudatory 
nobles composed his daily retinue, paying him the 
most obsequious homage, and expecting the same 
from those beneath themselves. Montezuma claimed 
to be lord of the whole world, and exacted tribute 
from all whom his arm could reach. His triumphant 
legions had invaded and subjugated many adjacent 
states, as this %pman empire of the New World ex- 
tended in all directions its powerful sway. 

It will thus be seen that the kingdom of Mexico, 
in point of civilization, was about on an equality with 
the Chinese empire of the present day. Its inhabit- 
ants were very decidedly elevated above the wander- 
ing hordes of North America. 

Montezuma had heard of the arrival, in the islands 
of the Caribbean Sea, of the strangers from another 
hemisphere. He had heard of their appalling power, 
their aggressions, and their pitiless cruelty. Wisely 
he resoived to exclude these dangerous visitors from 
his shores. As exploring expeditions entered his bays 
and rivers, they were fiercely attacked and driven, 
away. These expeditions, however, brought back to 
Cuba most alluring accounts of the rich empire of 
Mexico and of its golden opulence. 

The Governor of Cuba now resolved to fit out an 


expedition sufficiently powerful to subjugate their 
country, and make it one of the vassals of Spain. It 
was a dark period of the world. Human rights were 
but feebly discerned. Superstition reigned over hearts 
and consciences with a fearfully despotic sway. Acts, 
upon which would now fall the reproach of unmiti- 
gated villainy, were then performed with prayers and 
thanksgivings honestly offered. We shall but tell 
the impartial story of the wondrous career of Cortez 
in the subjugation of this empire. God, the searcher 
of all hearts, can alone unravel the mazes of consci- 
entiousness and depravity, and award the just meed 
of approval and condemnation. 

Many good motives were certainly united with 
those more questionable which inspired this enter- 
prise. It was a matter of national ambition to pro- 
mote geographical discoveries, to enlarge the realms 
of commerce, and to extend the boundaries of human 
knowledge by investigating the arts and the sciences 
of other nations. The Christian religion — Heaven's 
greatest boon to man — was destined, by the clear an- 
nouncements of prophecy, to fill the world; and it 
was deemed the duty of the Church to extend these 
triumphs in all possible ways. The importance of 
the end to be attained, it was thought, would sanc- 
tify even the instrumentality of violence and blood. 
Wealth and honors were among the earthly rewards 
promised to the faithful. 


Allowances must be made for the darkness of the 
age. It is by very slow and painful steps that the 
human mind has attained to even its present unsteady 
position in regard to civil and religious rights. 

The Governor of Cuba, Velasquez, looked earnestly 
for a man to head this important enterprise. He 
found just the man for the occasion in Hernando Cor- 
tez, a fearless, energetic Spanish adventurer, then re- 
siding upon the island of Cuba. His early life will 
be found in the next chapter. 


Early Life of Cortez. 

Village of Medellin. — Early character of Cortez. — Hernando sent to Sala- 
manca. — Life at the university. — He turns soldier. — Expedition to His- 
paniola. — His early love, and unfortunate consequences attending it. — 
He arrives at Hispaniola. — Patronage of the governor. — I^ife at His- 
paniola. — Cortez's courage. — The island of Cuba. — The new governor. — 
The filibustering expedition. — Resistance. — Hatuey condemned to death. 

— His conversation. — The colony. — The conspiracy. — Cortez imprisoned. 

— He flees to a church. — Arrest and escape. — Cortez is pardoned. — His 
marriage. — Voyage of discovery. — Discoveries. — Disasters. — Reports 
from Yucatan. — Another expedition. — It arrives at Mexico. — Accounts 
from Montezuma. — The golden hatchets.— Reports carried to Spain. — 
Cortez obtains a commission. — His enthusiasm. — Mission and means. — 
The governor alarmed. — Attempt to deprive Cortez of the command. — 
The squadron sails. — Cortez and the governor. — St. Jago and Trinidad. 

— The standard. — Providential gifts.— Orders to arrest Cortez. — His 
speech. — The result. — Cortez writes to Velasquez. — The squadron pro- 
ceeds to Cape Antonio. — The armament. — Personal appearance of Cor- 
tez. — The eve of departure. — The harangue. — Result of the speech. — 
The squadron sails. 

IN the interior of Spain, in the midst of the som- 
ber mountains whose confluent streams compose 
the waters of the Guadiana, there reposes the 
little village or hamlet of Medellin. A more secluded 
spot it would be difficult to find. Four hundred and 
twenty years ago, in the year 1485, Hernando Cortez 
was born in this place. His ancestors had enjoyed 
wealth and rank. The family was now poor, but 



proud of the Castilian blood which flowed in their 
veins. The father of Hernando was a captain in the 
army — a man of honorable character. Of his mother 
but little is known. 

Not much has been transmitted to our day re- 
specting the childhood of this extraordinary man. It 
is reported that he early developed a passion for wild 
adventure; that he was idle and wayward; frank, 
fearless, and generous; that he loved to explore the 
streams and to climb the cliffs of his mountainous 
home, and that he ever appeared reckless of danger. 
He was popular with his companions, for warm-heart- 
edness and magnanimity were prominent in his char- 

His father, though struggling with poverty, cher- 
ished ambitious views for his son, and sent him to 
the celebrated university of Salamanca for an educa- 
tion. He wished Hernando to avoid the perils and 
temptations of the camp, and to enter the honorable 
profession of the law. Hernando reluctantly obeyed 
the wishes of his father, and went to the university. 
But he scorned restraint. He despised all the em- 
ployments of industry, and study was his especial 
abhorrence. Two years were worse than wasted in 
the university. Young Cortez was both indolent and 
dissipated. In all the feats of mischief he was the 
ringleader, and his books were entirely neglected. 
He received many censures, and was on the point of 


being expelled, when his disappointed father with- 
drew the wayward boy from the halls of the univer- 
sity, and took him home. 

Hernando was now sixteen years of age. There 
was nothing for him to do in the seclusion of his 
native village but to indulge in idleness. This he 
did with great diligence. He rode horses; he hunted 
and fished; he learned the art of the swordsman and 
played the soldier. Hot blood glowed in his veins, 
and he became genteelly dissolute; his pride would 
never allow him to stoop to vulgarity. The father 
was grief-stricken by the misconduct of his son, and 
at last consented to gratify the passion which in- 
spired him to become a soldier. 

At seventeen years of age the martial boy enlisted 
in an expedition, under Gonsalvo de Cordova, to as- 
sist the Italians against the French. Young Cortez, 
to his bitter disappointment, just as the expedition 
started, was taken seriously sick, and was obliged to 
be left behind. Soon after this, one of his relatives 
was appointed, by the Spanish crown, governor of 
St. Domingo, now called Hayti, but then called His- 
paniola, or Little Spain. This opening to scenes and 
adventures in the New World was attractive to the 
young cavalier in the highest possible degree. It 
was, indeed, an enterprise which might worthily 
arouse the enthusiasm of any mind. A large fleet 
was equipped to convey nearly three thousand set- 


tiers to found a colony beneath the sunny skies and 
under the orange groves of the tropics. Life there 
seemed the elysium of the indolent man. Young 
Cortez now rejoiced heartily over his previous disap- 
pointment. His whole soul was engrossed in the 
contemplation of the wild and romantic adventures 
in which he expected to luxuriate. It is not to be 
supposed that a lad of such a temperament should, at 
the age of seventeen, be a stranger to the passion of 
love. There was a young lady in his native village 
for whom he had formed a strong youthful attach- 
ment. He resolved, with his accustomed ardor and 
recklessness, to secure an interview with his lady- 
love, where parting words and pledges should not be 
witnessed by prudent relatives. 

One dark night, just before the squadron sailed, 
the ardent lover climbed a mouldering wall to reach 
the window of the young lady's chamber. In the ob- 
scurity he slipped and fell, and some heavy stones 
from the crumbling wall fell upon him. He was con- 
veyed to his bed, severely wounded and helpless. 
The fleet sailed, and the young man, almost insane 
with disappointment and chagrin, was left upon his 
bed of pain. 

At length he recovered. His father secured for him 
a passage to join the colonists in another ship. He, 
with exultation, left Medellin, hastened to the sea- 
shore, where he embarked, and after an unusually ad- 


venturous and periious voyage, he gazed with delight 
upon the tropical vegetation and the new scenes of 
life of Hispaniola. It was the year 1 504. Cortez was 
then nineteen years of age. 

The young adventurer, immediately upon landing, 
proceeded to the house of his relative, Governor 
Ovando. The governor happened to be absent, but 
his secretary received the young man very cordially. 

"I have no doubt," said he to Hernando, "that 
you will receive a liberal grant of land to cultivate." 

"I come to get gold," Hernando replied, haughtily, 
"not to till the soil like a peasant." 

Ovando, on his return, took his young relative 
under his patronage, and assigned to him posts of 
profit and honor. Still Cortez was very restless. His 
impatient spirit wearied of the routine of daily duty, 
and his imagination was ever busy in the domain of 
wild adventure. 

Two Spaniards upon the island of Hispaniola about 
this time planned an expedition for exploring the 
main land, to make discoveries and to select spots 
for future settlements. Cortez eagerly joined the en- 
terprise, but again was he doomed to disappointment. 
Just before the vessels sailed he was seized by a 
fever, and laid prostrate upon his bed. Probably his 
life was thus saved. Nearly all who embarked on 
this enterprise perished by storm, disease, and the 
poisoned arrows of the natives. 


Seven years passed away, during which Cortez Jed 
an idle and voluptuous life, ever ready for any daring 
adventure which might offer, and miserably attempt- 
ing to beguile the weariness of provincial life with 
guilty amours. He accepted a plantation from the 
governor, which was cultivated by slaves. His purse 
was thus ever well filled. Not unfrequently he be- 
came involved in duels, and he bore upon his body 
until death many scars received in these encounters. 
Military expeditions were not unfrequently sent out to 
quell the insurrections to which the natives of the 
island were goaded by the injustice and the cruelty 
of the Spaniards. 

Cortez was always an eager volunteer for such 
service His courage and imperturbable self-posses- 
sion made him an invaluable co-operator in every en- 
terprise of danger. He thus became acquainted with 
all the artifices of Indian warfare, and inured himself 
to the toil and privations of forest life. 

In the year 1492 the magnificent island of Cuba, 
but a few leagues from Hispaniola, had been dis- 
covered by Columbus. As he approached the land, 
the grandeur of the mountains, the wide sweep of 
the valleys, the stately forests, the noble rivers, the 
bold promontories and headlands, melting away in the 
blue of the hazy distance, impressed him with un- 
bounded admiration. As he sailed up one of the 
beautiful rivers of crystal clearness, fringed with flow- 


ers, and aromatic shrubs, and tropical fruits, while the 
overhanging trees were vocal with the melody of 
birds of every variety of song and plumage, enraptured 
he exclaimed, 

"Cuba! It is the most beautiful island that eyes 
ever beheld. It is an elysium. One could live there 

The natives of the favored land were amiable 
and friendly. The Spaniards did not for several years 
encroach upon their rights, and no Spanish colony 
was established upon their enchanting shores. It was 
now the year 151 1. Nineteen years had elapsed since 
the discovery of the island. Ovando had been re- 
called, and Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher, 
had been appointed, in his stead, governor of Hispan- 
iola. He took the title of Viceroy, and assumed all 
the splendors of royalty. Diego Columbus devoutly 
decided that it was manifest destiny that Cuba should 
belong to. Spain. He organized a filibustering expe- 
dition to wrest from the natives their beautiful island. 
The command of the expedition was intrusted to 
Don Velasquez, a bold adventurer, of much notoriety, 
from Spain, who had been residing for many years at 
Hispaniola, and who had been lieutenant under Gov- 
ernor Ovando. A foray of this kind would, of course, 
excite the patriotic zeal of every vagabond. Cortez 
was one of the first to hasten to the standard of Ve- 
lasquez. The natives of the island, unarmed and vo- 

M. of H.— xv— 3 


luptuous, made hardly the shadow of resistance, and 
three hundred Spanish adventurers, with but a slight 
struggle, took possession of this magnificent domain. 
The reputation and ability of Cortez gave him a 
prominent position in this adventure. 

One brave and patriotic Indian chief, who had fled 
from the outrages perpetrated at Hispaniola, urged 
the Cubans to repel the invaders. Though unable to 
rouse in a mass the peace-loving islanders, he gath- 
ered a small band around him,, and valiantly con- 
tended to resist the landing. His efforts were quite 
unavailing. Gunpowder soon triumphed. The In- 
dians were speedily put to flight, and the chieftain 
Hatuey was taken prisoner. 

Velasquez ignobly and cruelly condemned the he- 
roic patriot to be burned alive; but religiously the 
fanatic invader wished, though he burned the body, 
to save the soul. A priest was appointed to labor for 
the conversion of the victim. 

"If you will embrace our religion," said the priest, 
"as soon as the fire has consumed your body, you 
will enter heaven, and be happy there forever." 

"Are there Spaniards," inquired Hatuey, "in that 
happy place of which you speak?" 

"Yes," replied the priest; "such as are holy." 

"Then I will not go there!" Hatuey energetically 
rejoined. "I will never go to a place where I shall 
meet one of that cruel people." 


The poor Indian was burned to ashes. The na- 
tives gazed upon the spectacle with horror. They 
were appalled, and ventured to make no further re- 
sistance to their terrible conquerors. 

Such is Spain's title-deed to the island of Cuba. 
God has not smiled upon regions thus infamously 
v/on. May the United States take warning that all 
her possessions may be honorably acquired. "God 
helps," says blind unbelief, "the heavy battalions;" 
but experience has fully proved that "the race is not 
always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." 

One or two colonies were soon established upon 
the conquered island. They grew very rapidly. Ve- 
lasquez was appointed governor; Cortez was his sec- 

Many families were enticed from Spain by the 
charms of this most beautiful of the isles of the ocean. 
A gentleman came from old Castile with four beau- 
tiful daughters. Velasquez became attached to one; 
Cortez trifled grievously with the affections of another. 
The governor reproached him for his infamous con- 
duct. The proud spirit of Cortez could not brook 
reproof, and he entered into a conspiracy to proffer 
complaints against the governor, and to secure his 
removal. It was a bold and a perilous undertaking. 

Cortez prepared to embark in an open boat, and 
push out fearlessly but secretly into the open sea, to 
make a voyage of nearly sixty miles to Hispaniola. 


There he was to enter his complaints to Diego Co- 
lumbus. The conspiracy was detected upon the eve 
of its execution. Cortez was arrested, manacled, 
thrown into prison, and was, after trial, sentenced to 
death for treason. He, however, succeeded in break- 
ing his fetters, forced open his prison window, and 
dropped himself down, in the darkness of the night, 
from the second story, and escaped to the sanctuary 
of a neighboring church. Such a sanctuary, in that 
day, could not be violated. 

A guard was secreted to watch him. He remained 
in the church for several days. But at length im- 
patience triumphed over prudence, and, as he attempted 
one night to escape, he was again arrested, more 
strongly chained, and was placed on board a ship to 
be sent to Hispaniola for execution. 

The code of Spanish law was in that day a bloody 
one. Spanish governors were almost unlimited des- 
pots. Cortez was not willing to go to Hispaniola 
with the cord of a convicted traitor about his neck. 
With extraordinary fortitude, he drew his feet, man- 
gling them sadly, through the irons which shackled 
them. Creeping cautiously upon deck, he let himself 
down softly into the water, swam to the shore, and, 
half dead with pain and exhaustion, attained again 
the sanctuary of the church. 

He now consented to marry the young lady with 
whose affections and reputation he had so cruelly tri- 


fled. The family, of course, espoused his cause. The 
governor, who was the lover of her sister, regarded 
this as the amende honorable, and again received the 
hot-blooded cavalier to his confidence. Thus this 
black and threatening cloud suddenly disappeared, and 
sunshine and calm succeeded the storm. Cortez re- 
turned to his estates with his bride a wiser, and perhaps 
a better man, from the severe discipline through which 
he had passed. Catalina Suarez, whom he married, 
was an amiable and beautiful lady of very estimable 
character. She eventually quite won the love of her 
wayward and fickle husband. 

"I lived as happily with her," said the haughty 
Castilian, "as if she had been the daughter of a 

Velasquez, like every other Spanish governor at 
that time, was ambitious of extending his dominions. 
In the year 15 17, a number of restless spirits, under 
his patronage, resolved to sail upon a voyage of dis- 
covery and conquest. 

Three vessels were fitted out for this adventure. 
One hundred and ten men embarked in the enterprise, 
under the command of Francisco Hernandez, of Cor- 
dova. Velasquez directed them to land upon some 
neighboring islands, and seize a number of inhabitants, 
and make slaves of them, to pay the cost of the ex- 
pedition. "But when the proposal," says one of the 
party, " was made known to the soldiers, we to a 


man refused it, saying that it was not just, nor 
did God or the king permit that free men should 
be made slaves. That our expedition," the same 
writer continues, "might be conducted on proper 
principles, we persuaded a clergyman to accompany 
us." In fervent prayer, commending themselves to 
God and the Virgin, they unfurled their sails, and 
steered resolutely toward the setting sun. They dis- 
covered the island of Cozumel and the vast promontory 
of Yucatan.* The expedition, however, encountered 
many disasters. The natives assailed them fiercely. 
At length the shattered ships returned, having lost 
seventy men, and bringing with them quite a number 
bleeding and dying. Cordova died of his wounds ten 
days after arriving at Havana. 

The tidings, however, of the magnificent discov- 
ery, and the fabulous report that the country was 
rich in gold, incited Velasquez to fit out a second ex- 
pedition of four ships, under the command of Juan 
de Grijalva. Two hundred and forty adventurers em- 
barked in the enterprise. On the 5th day of April, 
1 5 18, after having devoutly partaken of the sacrament 
of the Lord's Supper, the anchors were lifted, and the 
little squadron sailed from the port of Matanzas. 

* Yuca is the Indian name of the plant used for bread. The heap 
of earth in which it is planted is called tule. The two words re- 
peated together make Yucatul, or Yucatan as it was expressed by the 
Spaniards. — Bernal Diaz, p. no. 


Eight days brought them to Cozumel. They then 
passed over to the continent, and coasted along the 
shore for many leagues to the north and west. They 
made frequent attempts to land and open intercourse 
With the natives, but they were invariably attacked 
With the utmost determination. Though the Span- 
iards were generally victorious in these conflicts, they 
lost several men, and very many were sorely wounded. 
At length they arrived upon the coast of Mexico, and 
landed at the point now called St. Juan de Ulua. 
Here they were kindly received by the natives, and 
acquired considerable gold in exchange for glass beads. 
They also obtained vague information of the great 
monarch Montezuma, and of the extent and power 
of his realms. Greatly elated with this success, Gri- 
jalva sent one of his vessels back to Cuba with speci- 
mens of the goid, and with most glowing accounts 
of the grandeur, wealth, and power of the newly-dis- 
covered empire of Mexico. To their extreme delight, 
the voyagers found that the natives had hatchets ap- 
parently of solid burnished gold. The excitement was 
intense on board the ships. Six hundred of these 
hatchets were eagerly bought. At length the expe- 
dition returned to Cuba. The six hundred golden 
hatchets were triumphantly displayed, when, to the 
unutterable chagrin of their possessors, they proved 
to be but copper. The disappointed adventurers were 
overwhelmed with ridicule. "There was much laugh- 


ter," says Diaz, who accompanied the expedition, 
"when the six hundred hatchets were produced and 

The tidings of the discovery of Mexico spread, 
however, like wildfire over the island of Cuba. Every 
bosom which could be moved by avarice or by the 
love of adventure was intensely excited. Velasquez 
promptly dispatched the welcome intelligence to 
Spain, and immediately commenced fitting out an- 
other expedition upon a scale of grandeur hitherto 
unattempted. No one heard these tidings with such 
a thrill of emotion as Hernando Cortez. Though en- 
joying a rich estate, his extravagance had involved 
him in debt and distress. To retrieve his ruined for- 
tunes, and to gratify his insatiable love of adventure, 
he resolved to leave no efforts untried to secure for 
himself the command of the expedition. 

He bribed some of the powerful friends of the 
governor to advocate his cause, promising them a 
rich share of the booty which he hoped to obtain. 
He also offered to contribute largely of his own 
wealth to fit out the naval armament. 

It was manifest to all that there could not be a 
man better adapted to fill such a post than Hernando 
Cortez. The governor was well instructed in his en- 
ergy, capacity, and courage. But he feared these 
traits of character. He wished for a man who would 
,act as his agent, who would be submissive to his 


authority, and who would transfer the glory of suc- 
cessful achievement to his name. But Cortez was a 
man to lead, not to be led. The governor hesitated. 
At last he yielded to the powerful considerations 
which were pressed upon him, and publicly an- 
nounced Cortez as captain general of the armada. 

As soon as Cortez received this commission, all 
the glowing enthusiasm and tremendous energy of 
his nature were roused and concentrated upon this 
one magnificent object. His whole character seemed 
suddenly to experience a total change. He became 
serious, earnest, thoughtful. Mighty destinies were in 
his hands. Deeds were to be accomplished at which 
the world was to marvel. Strange as it may seem, for 
the heart of man is an inexplicable enigma, religion, 
perhaps we should say religious fanaticism, mingled 
the elements of her mystic power in the motives 
which inspired the soul of this extraordinary man. 
He was to march the apostle of Christianity to over- 
throw the idols in the halls of Montezuma, and there 
to rear the cross of Christ. It was his heavenly mis- 
sion to convert the benighted Indians to the religion 
of Jesus. With the energies of fire and sword, mis- 
ery and blood, horses rushing to the charge and 
death-dealing artillery, he was to lead back the wan- 
dering victims of darkness and sin to those paths of 
piety which guide to heaven. 

Such was Hernando Cortez. Let Philosophy ex- 


plain the enigma as she may, no intelligent man will 
venture the assertion that Cortez was a hypocrite. 
He was a frank, fearless, deluded enthusiast. 

Governor Velasquez soon became alarmed in view 
of the independent energy with which Cortez pressed 
forward the enterprise. It was quite evident that the 
bold adventurer would regard no instructions, and 
that, having acquired wealth and fame, he would, 
with his commanding genius, become a formidable 
rival. Velasquez therefore determined, before it should 
be too late, to deprive Cortez of the command. But 
it was already too late. The energetic captain re- 
ceived from a friend an intimation of his peril. With 
the decision which marked his character, he that very 
night, though the vessels were not prepared for sea, 
and the complement of men was not yet mustered, 
resolved secretly to weigh anchor. 

The moment the sun went down he called upon 
his officers and informed them of his purpose. Every 
man was instantly and silently in motion. At mid- 
night the little squadron, with all on board, dropped 
down the bay. Intelligence was promptly conveyed 
to the governor of this sudden and unexpected de- 
parture. Mounting his horse, he galloped to a point 
of the shore which commanded a view of the fleet 
at anchor in the roadstead. Cortez, from the deck of 
his ship, saw the governor upon the beach surrounded 
by his retinue. He entered a boat and was rowed 


near to the shore. The governor reproached Cortez 
bitterly for his conduct. 

"Pardon me," said the captain, courteously; "time 
presses, and there are some things which should be 
done before they are even thought of." 

Then, with Castilian grace, waving an adieu to 
the governor, he returned to his ship. The anchors 
were immediately raised, the sails spread, and the 
little fleet, the renown of whose extraordinary achieve- 
ments was to fill the world, was wafted from the 
harbor of St. Jago, and soon disappeared in the dis- 
tant horizon of the sea. 

St. Jago was then the capital of Cuba. Cortez 
directed his course to Mocaca, about thirty miles dis- 
tant. Hastily collecting such additional stores as the 
place would afford, he again weighed anchor and 
proceeded to Trinidad. This was an important town 
on the southern shore of the island. Here he landed, 
raised his banner, and, with alluring promises, invited 
volunteers to join the expedition. He marshaled and 
drilled his men, collected military supplies, and, more 
than all, by the charms of his daily intercourse secured 
the enthusiastic devotion of his followers. 

His men were armed with cross-bows and mus- 
kets, and he had several small cannon. Jackets, 
thickly wadded with cotton, were provided as coats 
of mail for the soldiers, which were a great protec- 
tion against the missiles of the natives. Neither ar- 


row nor javelin couid pierce them. A black velvet 
banner, embroidered with gold, and emblazoned with 
a cross, bore the characteristic device, 

"Let us follow the cross. Under this sign, with 
faith, we conquer." 

Beneath such a standard did these stern men 
march upon an expedition of wanton aggression, 
crime, and woe. 

A trading vessel appeared off the coast, laden with 
provisions and valuable merchandise. It was a prov- 
idential gift of exactly that which the adventurers 
needed. Cortez, with gratitude to God, seized both 
ship and cargo, and by his peculiar powers of moral 
suasion induced the captain and most of the crew to 
enlist in his service. Another ship made its appear- 
ance; it was a renewed token of God's kindness to 
his servants; it was received with alacrity. What- 
ever remonstrances the owners might raise were 
drowned in thanksgivings and praises. Every move- 
ment of the expedition was inspired by the fanatical 
spirit' of the Crusades. 

Cortez now, with his force much strengthened, 
sailed around the western point of the island to Ha- 
vana. With renewed diligence, he here resumed his 
labor of beating up recruits and of augmenting his 
stores. Governor Velasquez, informed of his arrival 
at this port, dispatched orders to Pedro Barba, com- 
mander at Havana, to arrest Cortez and seize the 


fleet. But it was much easier to issue this order than 
to execute it. Cortez was now too strong to be ap- 
prehended by any force which Barba had at his com- 
mand. Cortez received from a friend an intimation of 
the order for his arrest which had been received from 
the governor. 

He assembled his bold followers around him; 
made a rousing speech, full of eloquence and of the 
peculiar piety then in vogue; painted in glowing 
colors the wealth and the renown opening before 
them in the vast realms of Mexico; and then por- 
trayed, with biting sarcasm, the jealousy and the 
meanness of Velasquez, who wished to deprive him 
of the command of the enterprise. 

The speech was convincing. His tumultuary fol- 
lowers threw up their hats and filled the air with 
acclamations. They declared that they would ac- 
knowledge Cortez, and Cortez only, as their leader; 
that they would follow him wherever he might guide; 
that they would defend him with their lives, and that 
they would wreak unsparing vengeance upon any 
enemies who should attempt to molest him in his 
glorious career. This was the efficient reply which 
Cortez made to the order for his arrest. 

The reply was not lost upon Barba. He perceived 
that it would be folly to attempt to execute the com- 
mand of the governor. He wrote, to him accordingly, 
stating the impracticability of the attempt. In fact, 


Barba had no disposition to arrest Cortez. He had 
become strongly attached to the bold and earnest cap- 
tain. Cortez himself also wrote a very courteous let- 
ter to the governor, with studied politeness informing 
him that, with the blessing of God, he should sail the 
next day, and assuring the governor of eternal devo- 
tion to his interest. As there was some danger that 
Velasquez might send from St. Jago a force sufficiently 
strong to cause some embarrassment, the little squad- 
ron the next morning weighed anchor and proceeded 
to Cape Antonio, an appointed place of rendezvous 
on the extreme western termination of the island. 

Here Cortez completed his preparations and col- 
lected all the force he desired. He had now eleven 
vessels. The largest was of but one hundred tons. 
Three were of but seventy tons, and the rest were 
open barks. His whole force consisted of one hun- 
dred and ten seamen, five hundred and fifty-three 
soldiers, two hundred Indians, and a few Indian 
women for menial service. His regular soldiers con- 
sisted of sixteen horsemen, thirty musketeers, and 
thirty-two cross-bowmen. He had also, as the most 
formidable part of his armament, fourteen pieces of 
artillery, with an ample supply of ammunition. AH 
the soldiers, excepting the musketeers and the bow- 
men, were armed simply with swords and spears. 
Sixteen horses formed also an exceedingly important 
part of the physical force of the army. This noble 


animal had never yet been seen on the continent of 
America. With great difficulty, a few had been trans- 
ported across the ocean from Spain. With such a 
force this enthusiastic adventurer undertook the sub- 
jugation of a nation of many millions. 

Cortez was now thirty-three years of age. He was 
a handsome, well-formed man, of medium stature, 
of pale, intellectual features, with a piercing, dark eye, 
and frank and winning manners. He was temperate, 
indifferent respecting all personal comforts, and reck- 
less of hardship and peril. He fully appreciated the 
influence of dress, and ever appeared in the rich garb 
of a Spanish gentleman. He was courtly yet frank in 
his manners, and possessed a peculiar power of attract- 
ing to his person all who approached him. 

On the eve of his departure from Cape Antonio, 
he again assembled his followers around him, and thus 
harangued them: 

"The enterprise in which you are engaged will fill 
the world with your renown. I am leading you to 
countries more vast and opulent than European eyes 
have ever yet beheld. It is a glorious prize which I 
present to you. But this prize can only be won by 
hardship and toil. Great deeds are only achieved by 
great exertions. Glory is never the reward of sloth. 
I have labored hard and staked my all on this under- 
taking, for I love that renown which is the noblest 
recompense of man. 


"Do you covet riches more? Be true to me, and 
I wili make you masters of wealth of which you have 
never dreamed. You are few in numbers, but be 
strong in resolution, and doubt not that the Almighty, 
who has never deserted the Spaniard in his contest 
with the infidel, will shield you, though encompassed 
by enemies. Your cause is just. You are to fight 
under the banner of the cross. Onward, then, with 
alacrity. Gloriously terminate the work so auspi- 
ciously begun." 

This speech was received with tumultuous cheers. 
Mass was then celebrated by the ecclesiastics who ac- 
companied the fleet, and with many religious cere- 
monies the squadron was placed under the protection 
of St. Peter. The anchors were raised, the sails were 
spread, and a favoring breeze pressed them rapidly 
over the waves toward the setting sun. It was the 
1 8th of February, 15 19. 


The Voyage to Mexico. 

The voyage. — They reach the island of Cozumel. — Treasures seized. — The 
island and its inhabitants. — Exploring parties to the main land. — Mis- 
sionary labors.— The first mass. — Miraculous conversions. — Return of 
the exploring party. — Arrival of Aguilar. — History of Aguilar's life at 
Yucatan. — Escape and capture. — Guerrero takes to savage life. — Escape. 

— Guerrero remains with the savages. — Squadron again sails. — They en- 
ter the Tabasco. — They ascend the river. — Landing postponed. — En- 
campment. — Preparation for the conflict. — The reception. — The battle. 

— The charge. — Victory. — March to Tabasco. — Possession taken of the 
town. — Gathering of the natives. — The two armies meet. — The conflict. 

— The cavalry charge. — Terror of the natives. — The flight. — Estimates 
of the number killed. — The declaration. — The natives submissive. — The 
new religion. — St. Mary of Victory. — Motives which actuated the adven- 
turers. — Christian instruction. — Principle and practice. — The altar. — 
Devotions. — Baptism. — The presents. — Marina. — Indulgences. — Charac- 
ter of Marina. — Her career. — Her devotion to Cortez. — Departure from 
Tabasco. — Blessings left behind. — They coast along the shore. — Arrival 
at San Juan de Ulua. 

Light and variable winds retarded the progress of 
the squadron as it was headed in a south- 
westerly direction toward the shores of Yuca- 
tan. A terrible tempest succeeded, and the ships 
were driven wildly before the storm. But after the 
lapse of about a week, as the storm abated, they 
were cheered by the sight of land. The mountains 
of the island of Cozumel rose towering before them. 
This large island is separated from the main land of 

M. ofH— XV— 4 (49) 


Yucatan by a channel of from twelve to thirty miles 
in width. 

When the natives saw the ships approaching, they 
fled from the shores in terror. Such a fleet must 
have, indeed, presented to the artless inhabitants an 
appalling spectacle. The squadron cast anchor in a 
spacious bay, and those who first arrived were the 
first to land. The captain of one of the vessels, with 
some of his crew, entered one of the native temples, 
and, seeing the idol decorated with gold, seized the 
treasure promptly as lawful prize, and also captured 
two or three of the natives. Cortez was indignant at 
conduct so rash and impolitic. He severely rebuked 
the over-zealous captain, ordered the ornaments to be 
replaced, and liberated the captives and loaded them 
with presents. He thus appeased the fears of the na- 
tives, and induced them to return to their dwellings. 
They soon became quite reconciled to the strangers, 
and opened with them a lucrative traffic. The island 
was not very fertile, and was thinly inhabited; but 
the natives had large and comfortable houses, built of 
stone cemented with mortar. There were several 
spacious temples, with lofty towers, constructed of 
the same durable materials. The adventurers were 
also exceedingly surprised to find in the court-yard of 
one of the temples an idol in the form of a massive 
stone cross. It was erected in honor of the god of 
rain. It is, indeed, a curious question, and one which 


probably will never be answered, how the natives of 
this new world obtained those apparently shadowy 
ideas of Christianity. They certainly performed the 
rite of baptism. The cross was one of their idols. 
They also believed in original sin, which was to be 
in some way removed by sprinkling an infant with 

Cortez remained upon this island about a fortnight. 
During this time all his energies were engrossed in 
accomplishing the great object of his mission. He 
sent two vessels to the main land to make inquiries 
about some Spaniards, who, it was reported, had been 
shipwrecked upon the coast, and were still lingering 
in captivity. The captain in command of this expe- 
dition was instructed to return within eight days. 
Several parties were also sent in various directions to 
explore the island thoroughly and ascertain its re- 

But one of the most important objects, in the esti- 
mation of Cortez, to be accomplished, was the con- 
version of the natives to the Catholic religion. He 
had with him several ecclesiastics — men whose sin- 
cerity no candid man can doubt. The Indians were 
assembled, and urged, through an interpreter, to 
abandon their idols and turn to the living God. The 
simple natives understood but little of the harangue, 
except the injunction to destroy their idols. At this 
suggestion they were horror-stricken. They assured 


Cortez that were they to harm or insult their gods, 
destruction in every awful form would immediately 
overwhelm them. 

The bold warrior wielded bold arguments. His 
logic was truly military. With his mailed cavaliers he 
made a prompt onslaught upon the idols, hewed them 
down, smashed them to pieces, and tumbled the 
dishonored and mutilated fragments into the streets. 
He then constructed a Christian altar, reared a cross 
and an image of the holy Virgin and the holy child, 
and mass, with all its pomp of robes, and chants, 
and incense, was for the first time performed in the 
temples of Yucatan. 

The natives were at first overwhelmed with grief 
and terror as they gazed upon their prostrate deities. 
But no earthquake shook the island; no lightning sped 
its angry bolt; no thunder broke down the skies. 
The sun still shone tranquilly, and ocean, earth, and 
sky smiled untroubled. The natives ceased to fear 
gods who could not protect themselves, and without 
further argument consented to exchange their ungainly 
idols for the far prettier idols of the strangers. The 
heart of Cortez throbbed with enthusiasm and pride 
as he contemplated his great and glorious achieve- 
ment — an achievement, in his view, unparalled by 
the miracles of Peter or of Paul. In one short fort- 
night he had converted these islanders from the serv- 
tee of Satan, and had won them to that faith which 


would secure their eternal salvation. The fanatic sin- 
cerity with which this deed was accomplished does 
not redeem it from the sublimity of absurdity. Faith, 
said these mailed theologians, saves the soul; and 
these pagans have now turned from their idols to the 
living God. It is true that man is saved by faith, but 
it is that faith which works by love. 

In the mean time the parties returned from the 
exploration of the island, and Orday brought back his 
two ships from the main land. He was unsuccessful 
in his attempts to find the shipwrecked Spaniards. 
Cortez had now been at Cozumel a fortnight. As 
he was on the point of taking his departure, a frail 
canoe was seen crossing the strait, with three men 
in it, apparently Indians, and entirely naked. As 
soon as the canoe landed, one of the men ran fran- 
tically to the Spaniards and informed them that he 
was a Christian and a countryman. His name was 

Seven years ago, the vessel in which he was sail- 
ing from Darien to Hispaniola foundered in a gale. 
The ship's company, twenty in number, took to the 
boats. For thirteen days they were driven about at 
the mercy of the winds and currents. Seven per- 
ished miserably from hunger and thirst. The rest 
reached the barbarian shores of Yucatan. The natives 
seized them as captives, guarded them carefully, but 
fed them abundantly with the choicest food, and in- 


flicted upon them no sufferings, and required of them 
no toil. Their treatment was an enigma which was 
soon dreadfully explained. 

One day four of the captives who were in the 
best condition were selected, sacrificed upon the 
bloody altars of the idols, and their cooked flesh 
served up for a cannibal repast. The howlings of 
the savages over the midnight orgies of this horrible 
entertainment fell dismally upon the ears of the mis- 
erable survivors. In their despair they succeeded in 
escaping, and fled to the mountain forests. Here 
they wandered for a time in the endurance of awful 
sufferings. At length they were again taken captive 
by the cacique or chief of another province. He 
spared their lives, but made them menial slaves. 
Their masters were merciless and exacting in the ex- 
treme. Under this rigorous treatment all died but 
two — Aguilar, a priest, and Guerrero, a sailor. The 
sailor, having no scruples of any kind, and being ready 
to conform himself to all customs, gradually acquired 
the good will of the savages. He obtained renown 
as a warrior; identified himself entirely with the na- 
tives; tattooed his face; slit his ears, his lips, and his 
nose, for those dangling ornaments which ever ac- 
company a barbarian taste, and took to him a native 

Aguilar, however, was a man of more cultivation 
and refinement. He cherished his self-respect, and, 


resisting all enticements to marry an Indian maiden, 
was true to the vows of celibacy which his priestly 
profession imposed. Curious stories are related of the 
temptations to which the natives exposed him. 
Weary years lingered along, presenting no opportu- 
nity for escape. Cortez at last arrived at Cozumel. 
Some Indians carried the tidings into the interior. 
Aguilar received this intelligence with transport, and 
yet with trembling. He, however, succeeded in reach- 
ing the coast, accompanied by two friendly natives. 
He found upon the beach a stranded canoe, half 
buried in the sand. Embarking in this with his two 
companions, they paddled themselves across the strait, 
at that place twelve miles wide, to the island. The 
frail boat was seen by the party of Cortez upon the 
surface of the sea. As soon as Aguilar landed he 
dropped upon his knees, and with streaming eyes 
gave thanks to God for his escape. 

His companion in captivity refused to accompany 
him. " Brother Aguilar," said he, after a moment's 
thought, "I am married. I have three sons, and am 
a cacique and captain in the wars. My face is tat- 
tooed and my ears bored. What would the Spaniards 
think of me should I now go among them?" AH 
Aguilar's treaties for him to leave were unavailing. 

Aguilar appears to have been truly a good man. 
As he had acquired a perfect acquaintance with the 
language of the natives, and with their manners and 


customs, Cortez received him as a heaven-sent acqui- 
sition to his enterprise. 

On the 4th of March the squadron again set sail, 
and, crossing the narrow strait, approached the shores 
•of the continent. Sailing directly north some hundred 
miles, hugging the coast of Yucatan, Cortez doubled 
Cape Catoche, and turning his prow to the west, 
boldly pressed forward into those unknown waters 
which seemed to extend interminably before him. 
The shores were densely covered with the luxuriant 
foliage of the tropics, and in many a bay and on 
many a headland could be discerned the thronged 
dwellings of the natives. 

After sailing west about two hundred miles, they 
found the coast again turning abruptly to the south. 
Following the line of the land some three hundred 
miles farther, they came to the broad mouth of the 
River Tabasco, which Grijalva had entered, and which 
Cortez was seeking. A sand-bar at the mouth of the 
river prevented the heavily-loaded vessels from pass- 
ing. Cortez, therefore, cast anchor, and taking a 
strong and well-armed party in the boats, ascended 
the shallow stream. 

A forest of majestic trees, with underwood dense 
and impervious, lined the banks. The naked forms 
of the natives were seen gliding among the foliage, 
following, in rapidly-accumulating numbers, the ad- 
vance of the boats, and evincing, by tone and gesture, 


anything but a friendly spirit. At last, arriving at an 
opening in the forest, where a smooth and grassy 
meadow extended with gradual ascent from the stream, 
the boats drew near the shore, and Cortez, through his 
interpreter Aguilar, asked permission to land, avowing 
his friendly intentions. The prompt answer was the 
clash of weapons and shouts of defiance. 

Upon this Cortez decided to postpone a forcible 
landing until the morning, and retired to a small island 
in the river which was uninhabited. He here encamped 
for the night, establishing a vigilant line of sentinels 
to guard against surprise. 

In the early dawn of the next morning the party 
were assembled for prayers and for the celebration of 
mass. They then, with new zeal and courage, entered 
their boats, and ascended the glassy, forest-fringed 
stream, upon which the morning sun shone brightly. 
Bird-songs filled the air, and hardly a breath of wind 
moved the leaves, glittering in the brilliant sunlight, 
as these bronzed men of iron sinews moved sternly 
on to the demoniac deeds of war. The natives, in 
preparation for the conflict, had been all the night 
rallying their forces. The shore was lined with their 
war-canoes, and the banks were covered with Indian 
troops drawn up in martial array. Gorgeous plumes 
decorated their persons, and the rays of the sun were 
reflected from their polished weapons. As soon as 
the Spanish boats appeared, the vast army of the na- 


tives raised shouts of defiance, and the ear was 
almost deafened with the clangor of their trumpets 
and drums. 

The battle soon commenced. The sky was almost 
darkened by the shower of arrows thrown by those 
upon the land. The warriors in the canoes fought 
fiercely with their javelins. The conflict was bloody, 
but short. Native valor could avail but little against 
European discipline and art. The spears, stones, and 
arrows of the natives fell almost harmless upon the 
helmets and shields of the Spaniards; but the bullets 
from the guns of the invaders swept like hail-stones 
through the crowded ranks of the natives, unimpeded 
by their frail weapons of defense. Cortez himself 
headed a charge which broke resistlessly into the 
hostile ranks. Appalled by the terrific thunder and 
lightning of the musketry, the Indians soon scattered 
and fled, leaving the ground covered with their slain. 

Cortez now reviewed his troops in triumph upon 
the shore. He found that fourteen were wounded, 
but none slain. To attend to the wounded and to 
rest his exhausted men, he again encamped. The 
bloodstained banner of the cross, which they had so 
signally dishonored, floated proudly over their intrench- 
ments. Prayers were offered and mass celebrated in 
honor of the victory achieved by Christian arms 
against idolaters. The next morning the Spaniards 
marched unresisted to Tabasco, the capital of the 


province, a large town upon the river, but a few 
miles above the place where the invaders had effected 
a landing. The inhabitants, men, women, and chil- 
dren, fled from the place in dismay. 

Cortez took possession of the town in the name 
of the King of Spain. But the whole surrounding 
region was now aroused. The natives, in numbers 
which could not be counted, gathered in the vicinity 
of Tabasco, and organized their forces anew, to repel, 
if possible, the terrible foe. They were assembled on 
the great plain of Ceutla. Cortez had anticipated this, 
and was also gathering his strength for a decisive 
battle. He sent to the ships for six pieces of cannon, 
his whole cavalry of sixteen horses, and every availa- 
ble man. A few only were left to guard the vessels. 
This powerful re-enforcement soon arrived. Thus 
strengthened, his whole army was called together to 
celebrate the solemnities of mass, and to implore the 
blessing of God in extending the triumphs of the 
cross over the kingdom of Satan. Thus they marched 
forth, with powder, and ball, and neighing steeds, to 
the merciless slaughter of those brave men who were 
fighting for their country and their homes. 

The Spaniards now advanced to meet their foes. 
It was a Jovely morning, the 25th of March. The 
natives, in point of civilization, raised far above the 
condition of savages, had large fields in a high state 
of cultivation, waving with the rich vegetation of the 


tropics. After a march of three or four miles through 
a country cultivated like a garden, they arrived at the 
ground occupied by the native army. The lines of 
their encampments were so extended and yet so 
crowded that the Spaniards estimated their numbers 
at over forty thousand. To meet them in the strife 
Cortez had but six hundred men. But his terrible 
engines of destruction made his force more powerful 
than theirs. The natives were ready for the battle,, 
They greeted their assailants with a war-whoop, which 
rose in thunder tones over the plain, and showered 
upon them volleys of arrows, sling-stones, and jave- 
lins. At this first discharge, seventy Spaniards were 
wounded and one was slain. The conflict soon raged 
with all imaginable horrors. The natives fought with 
the courage of desperation. They seemed even re- 
gardless of the death-dealing muskets. And when 
the terrible cannon, with its awful roar, opened huge 
gaps in their ranks, manfully they closed up, and with 
new vigor pressed the onset. The odds were so fear- 
ful that for some time it seemed quite doubtful on 
which side victory would rest. 

Cortez, heading his cavalry, swept around the plain, 
and, by a circuitous route, came unperceived upon the 
rear of the tumultuous foe. The sixteen horsemen, 
clad in steel, urging their horses to their utmost 
speed, with loud shouts and sabers gleaming in the 
air, plunged into the midst of the throng. Their keen- 


edged swords fell on the right hand and on the left 
upon the almost naked bodies of the natives. At the 
same moment, the energies of musketry and artillery 
were plied with murderous carnage. 

The natives had never seen a horse before. They 
thought the rider and the steed one animal. As these 
terrific monsters, half human, half beast, came bound- 
ing into their midst, cutting down and trampling be- 
neath iron hoofs all who stood in the way, while at 
the same time the appalling roar of the cannonade 
seem to shake the very hills, the scene became too 
awful for mortal courage to endure. The whole 
mighty mass, in uncontrollable dismay, fled from the 
presence of foes of such demoniac aspect and energy. 
The slaughter of these poor Indians was so awful 
that some of the Spaniards extravagantly estimated 
the number left dead upon the field at thirty thou- 
sand. Though many of the Spaniards were wounded, 
but two were killed. 

Cortez immediately assembled his army under a 
grove upon the field of battle to give thanks to God 
for the victory. The pomp and pageantry of war 
gave place to the pomp and pageantry of the Church. 
Canonical robes and banners fluttered in the breeze, 
processions marched, the smoke of incense floated in 
the air, and mass, with all its imposing solemnities, 
was celebrated in the midst of prayers and thanks- 


"Then/' says Diaz, "after dressing our wounds 
with the fat of Indians whom we found dead there- 
about, and having placed good guards round our post, 
we ate our supper and went to our repose." 

Under the placable influence of these devotions, 
the conqueror sent word to the vanquished that he 
would now forgive them if they would submit un- 
conditionally to his authority. But he declared that 
if they refused this, he would ride over the land, and 
put every thmg in it, man, woman, and child, to the 

The spirit of resistance was utterly crushed. The 
natives immediately sent a delegation to him laden 
with presents. To impress these embassadors still 
more deeply with a sense of his power, he exhibited 
before them the martial evolutions of his cavalry, and 
showed them the effects of his artillery as the balls 
were sped crashing through the trees of the forest. 
The natives were now effectually conquered, and 
looked upon the Spaniards as beings of supernatural 
powers, wielding the terrors of thunder and lightning, 
and whom no mortal energies could resist. 

They had become as little children. This Cortez 
thought a very suitable frame of mind to secure their 
conversion. He recommended that they should cast 
down their idols, and accept instead the gods of pa- 
pal Rome. The recommendation of Cortez was po- 
tent over the now pliant natives. They made no 


opposition while the soldiers, whose hands were 
hardly yet washed of the blood of their relatives, 
hewed down their images. With very imposing cere- 
monies, the religion of the conquerors was instituted 
in the temples of Yucatan, and, in honor of the Virgin 
Mary, the name of Tabasco was changed into St. Mary 
of Victory. 

In all this tremendous crime there was apparently 
no hypocrisy. Human motives will seldom bear 
rigid scrutiny. Man's best deeds are tainted. Cortez 
was very sincere in his desire to overthrow the 
abominable system of idolatry prevailing among the 
natives. He perhaps truly thought that these violent 
measures were necessary to accomplish this object, and 
that Christianity, thus introduced, would prove an inesti- 
mable blessing. We may abhor his conduct, while 
we can still make generous allowances for the dark- 
ness of his mind and of the age in which he lived. 
It requires infinite wisdom to adjust the balance of 
human deeds. 

Two of the Catholic ecclesiastics, Olmedo and 
Diaz, were probably unaffected Christians, truly desiring 
the spiritual renovation of the Indians. They felt keenly 
the worth of the soul, and did all they could rightly 
to instruct these unhappy and deeply-wronged natives. 
They sincerely pitied their sufferings, but deemed it 
wise that the right eye should be plucked out, and 
that the right arm should be cut off, rather than that 


the soul should perish. It is a consoling thought, 
that "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord 
pitieth them that fear him ; for he knoweth our frame, 
he remembereth that we are dust." The natives 
were assembled in their temples; they came together 
in immense multitudes. The priests, through their 
interpreter, Aguilar, endeavored to instruct them in 
the pure doctrines and the sublime mysteries of Chris- 
tianity. If the natives perceived a marked difference 
between these precepts and the awful carnage on the 
field of Ceutla, it was not the first time that principles 
and practice have been found discordant. 

A grand religious ceremony was instituted to com- 
memorate the conversion of the nation. The whole 
army took a part in the solemnities of the occasion, 
with all the martial and ecclesiastical pomp which 
their situation could furnish. The natives in countless 
multitudes joined the procession, and gazed with as- 
tonishment upon the scene. Advancing to the prin- 
cipal pyramidal temple of Tabasco, which was an 
enormous structure, with a vast area upon its summit, 
they wound around its sides in the ascent. Upon 
this lofty platform, beneath the unclouded sun, with 
thousands of Indians crowding the region around to 
witness the strange spectacle, a Christian altar was 
reared, the images of the Savior and of the Virgin 
were erected, and mass was celebrated. Clouds of in- 
cense rose into the still air, and the rich voices of the 


Spanish soldiers swelled the solemn chant. It must 
have been an impressive scene. There must have 
been some there into whose eye the tear of devotion 
gushed. If there were in that throng — all of whom 
have long since gone to judgment — one single broken 
and contrite heart, that was an offering which God 
could accept. Father Olmedo preached upon the oc- 
casion "many good things touching our holy faith." 
Twenty Indian girls who had been given to the 
Spanish captains for wives were baptized. 

Cortez having thus, in the course of a week, an- 
nexed the whole of these new provinces of unknown 
extent to Spain, and having converted the natives to 
Christianity, prepared for his departure. The natives, 
among their propitiatory offerings, had presented to 
Cortez, as we have mentioned, twenty young and 
beautiful females whom they had captured from hos- 
tile tribes, or who in other ways had become their 
slaves. Cortez distributed these unenlightened maid- 
ens among his captains, having first selected one of 
the youngest and most beautiful of them, Marina, for 
his wife. Cortez had a worthy spouse upon his plan- 
tation at Cuba. No civil or religious rites sanctioned 
this unhallowed union; and he was sufficiently in- 
structed to know that he was sinning against the 
laws of both God and man; but the conscience of this 
extraordinary adventurer had become involved in 
labyrinths utterly inexplicable. He seemed to judge 

M. of H.— XV— 5 


that he was doing so much for the cause of Holy 
Mother Church that his own private sins were of 
little comparative moment. His many good deeds, he 
appeared to think, purchased ample indulgence. 

But Marina was a noble woman. The relation 
which she sustained to Cortez did no violence to her 
instincts or to her conscience. She had never been 
instructed in the school of Christ. Polygamy was the 
religion of her land. She deemed herself the honored 
wife of Cortez, and dreamed not of wrong. Marina 
was in all respects an extraordinary woman. Nature 
had done much for her. In person she was exceed- 
ingly beautiful. She had winning manners, and a 
warm and loving heart. Her mind was of a superior 
order. She very quickly mastered the difficulties of 
the Castilian tongue, and thus spoke three languages 
with native fluency — the Mexican, the Yucatanese, 
and the Spanish. "I am more happy," said she one 
day, "in being the wife of my lord and master Cor- 
tez, and of having a son by him, than if I had 
been sovereign of all of New Spain." 

Her career had been eventful in the extreme. She 
was the daughter of a rich and powerful cacique, 
who was tributary to the Emperor of Mexico. Her 
father died during her infancy, and her mother mar- 
ried again. A son by her new husband gradually es- 
tranged the affections of the unnatural mother from 
her daughter. These feelings increased, till she re- 


garded the child with deep dislike, and secretly gave 
her away to some slave-drivers, circulating the report 
that the child was dead. The slave-merchants brought 
her from her distant home, where the language of 
Mexico was her native tongue, and sold her to one 
of the chiefs of Tabasco. Here she acquired the lan- 
guage of Yucatan. 

There was much in the energy, magnanimity, 
fearlessness, and glowing temperament of Cortez to 
rouse a woman's love. Marina became devotedly at- 
tached to him. She watched over his interests with 
a zeal which never slumbered; and when she became 
the mother of his son, still more tender ties bound 
her to the conqueror of her race. In subsequent 
scenes of difficulty and danger, her acquaintance with 
the native language, manners, and customs made her 
an invaluable acquisition to the expedition. 

After a few days spent at Tabasco, the hour for 
departure came. 

The boats, decorated with the banner of the cross, 
and with palm leaves, the symbols of happiness and 
peace, floated down the beautiful river to the squad- 
ron riding at anchor at its mouth. Again spreading 
the sails, and catching a favorable breeze, the adven- 
turers were wafted rejoicingly on toward the shores 
of Mexico. The newly-converted natives were left to 
meditate upon the instructions which they had re- 
ceived, to count the graves of the slain, to heal, as 


they could, the gory wounds and splintered bones of 
their friends, still writhing in anguish, and to wail 
the funeral dirge in the desolate homes of the widow 
and the orphan. Seldom, in the history of the world, 
has such a whirlwind of woe so suddenly burst upon 
any people. How long they continued to cherish a 
religion introduced by such harbingers we are not in- 

The sun shone brightly on the broad Mexican 
Gulf, and zephyrs laden with fragrance from the luxu- 
riant shores swelled the flowing sheets. As the fleet 
crept along the land, the temples and houses of the 
natives, and their waving fields of grain, were dis- 
tinctly visible from the decks. Many a promontory 
and headland was covered with multitudes of tawny 
figures, decorated with all the attractions of barbarian 
splendor, gazing upon the fearful phenomena of the 
passing ships. Cortez continued his course for several 
hundred miles, sweeping around the shores of this 
magnificent gulf, until he arrived at the island of 
San Juan de Ulua. He was seeking this spot, which 
Grijalva had visited, and here he dropped his anchors 
in one of the harbors of the empire of Mexico. 


Founding a Colony. 

The fleet anchors. — Arrival of the canoes. — The two chiefs. — The legend. — 
The presents. — The interview. — The government of the empire. — Cortez 
lands. — Scene on the shore. — Visit of Governor Teutile. — Cortez's 
speech. — Teutile's uneasiness. — His reply. — Embassadors to be sent to 
Montezuma. — Picture writing. — Military review. — The manoeuvres. — 
Terror of the natives. — Departure of the runners. — Police regulations. — 
Kindness of the natives.— Arrival of the embassy. — Message from Mon- 
tezuma. — Chagrin of Cortez. — Disaffection in the camp. — Second Mes- 
sage from Montezuma. — The Ave Maria. — Curiosity of the natives. — 
The sermon. — Presentation of the crucifix. — Desertion of the huts. — The 
mutiny. — Shrewdness. — The mutineers outwitted. — Success of the 
scheme. — Enthusiasm. — Council elected for the new colony. — Appear- 
ance of Cortez before the assembly. — The address. — Cortez lays down 
his commission. — He is induced to take it up again. — Remonstrance. — 
Mode of reasoning. — Envoys of Zempoalla. — Prospect of civil war.— 
Resolve to establish a colony at Quiabislan. — Beauties of the country 
and refinement of the inhabitants. — Reception at Zempoalla. — Cortez 
offers his services. — Wrongs of the Totonacs. — Help implored. — Ap- 
plause of the natives. — Erection of fortifications. — Building the town. 
— The lords from Montezuma. — Consternation of the Totonacs. — The 
penalty. — Cortez's orders. — Power of Montezuma. — The Mexican lords 
arrested. — Perfidy of Cortez. — The lords are liberated. — Villa Rica de la 
Vera Cruz. — Embassy from Montezuma. — He adopts a conciliatory pol- 
icy. — Amazement of the Totonacs. 

IT was a beautiful afternoon in April when the fleet 
sailed majestically into the Mexican bay. Earth, 
sea, and sky smiled serenely, and all the elements 
of trouble were lulled into repose. As the ships glided 
over the smooth waters to their sheltered anchorage, 

a scene, as of enchantment, opened around the voy- 



agers. In the distance, on grassy slopes, and in the 
midst of luxuriant groves, the villages and rural 
dwellings of the natives were thickly scattered. The 
shores were covered with an eager multitude, contem- 
plating with wonder and awe the sublime spectacle 
of the fleet. 

Hardly were the anchors dropped ere two canoes 
shot from the shore, filled with natives. The ship in 
which Cortez sailed was more imposing than the 
rest, and the banner of Spain floated proudly from its 
topmast. The Mexicans steered promptly for this 
vessel, and, with the most confiding frankness, as- 
cended its sides. Two of the persons in these boats 
were men of high distinction in the Mexican empire. 
As Marina understood their language perfectly, and 
the liberated Spanish captive Aguilar was thoroughly 
acquainted with the language of the Tabascans, there 
was no difficulty in the interchange of ideas. One of 
these men was the governor of the province in which 
Cortez had landed; the other was commander-in-chief 
of all the military forces in that province. It has been 
mentioned that Grijalva had previously landed at this 
spot, and given it the name of San Juan de Ulua. 
The Mexicans had thus some knowledge of the for- 
midable strangers who were invading the New World, 
and in various ways tidings, for now the quarter of 
a century, had been reaching their ears of the appall- 
ing power of this new race. 


Perhaps to this fact is to be attributed the general 
and discouraging impression which then prevailed, 
that a fearful calamity which nothing could avert was 
impending over the nation; that it was the decree of 
destiny that a strange race, coming from the rising 
of the sun, should overwhelm and desolate their 

The two chiefs brought Cortez a present of bread, 
fruit, fowls, flowers, and golden ornaments. The in- 
terview was conducted by the interchange of the 
most formal social ceremonies of Mexico and of Spain. 
Cortez invited his guests to remain and dine. The 
communication between them was necessarily slow, 
as Marina interpreted their speech to Aguilar, and 
Aguilar to Cortez. The Spanish commander, how- 
ever, thus ascertained the most important facts which 
he wished to know respecting the great empire of 
Mexico. He learned that two hundred miles in the 
interior was situated the capital of the empire, and 
that a monarch named Montezuma, beloved and re- 
vered by his subjects, reigned over the extended 
realm. The country was divided into provinces, over 
each of which a governor presided. The province in 
which Cortez had landed was under the sway of 
Governor Teutile, who resided about twenty miles in 
the interior. 

Cortez, though uninvited, immediately, with great 
energy and boldness, landed his whole force upon 


the beach. He constructed a fortified camp, and 
planted his heavy artillery upon the surrounding hil- 
locks to sweep all the approaches. Characteristically 
it is recorded that, having posted their artillery, they 
raised an altar, and not till after that was done did 
they erect barracks for themselves. The friendly na- 
tives aided the Spaniards in building huts, brought 
them presents of flowers and food, and entered into 
an active traffic, in which both parties exulted in the 
great bargains which they made. Thus the Mexicans 
warmed the vipers who were fatally to -ting them. 

It was indeed a novel scene, worthy of the pencil 
of the painter, which that beach presented day after 
day. Men, women, and children, boys and girls, in 
all the variety of barbaric costume, thronged the en- 
campment. Mexicans and Spaniards mingled merrily 
in all the peaceful and joyful confusion of a fair. The 
rumor of the strange visitors spread far and wide, 
and each day increasing multitudes were assembled. 

The intelligence was speedily communicated to 
Governor Teutile. With a numerous retinue, he set 
out from his palace to visit his uninvited guests, and 
to ascertain their object and purposes. The governor 
entered the Spanish camp accompanied by the com- 
mander-in-chief of all the provincial forces. Each 
party vied in the external demonstrations of respect 
and friendship. The eyes of the Spaniards glistened 
with avarice as Teutile spread before Cortez many 


valuable ornaments of massive silver and gold, 
wrought in exquisite workmanship. The sight in- 
flamed them with more intense desires to penetrate a 
country where such treasures could be obtained. 
After a splendid repast given by the Spaniards, Cortez 
said to his visitors, 

"I am the subject of Charles V., the most pow- 
erful monarch in the world. My sovereign has heard 
of the greatness and the glory of Montezuma, the 
Emperor of Mexico. I am sent to his court to con- 
vey the respects of my sovereign, to offer suitable 
presents, and to confer with him upon matters of 
great moment. It is therefore my desire to proceed 
immediately to the capital, to accomplish the pur- 
poses of my mission." 

Teutile could not conceal the uneasiness with 
which he heard this avowal. He knew that Monte- 
zuma and all the most intelligent men of the nation 
contemplated with dread the power and the encroach- 
ments of the Europeans, now so firmly established on 
the islands of the Caribbean Sea. With embarrass- 
ment he replied, 

"I hear with pleasure of the magnificence of your 
sovereign. Our monarch is not less glorious. No 
earthly king can surpass him in wealth or goodness. 
You have been but a few days in these realms, and 
yet you are impatient to be admitted, without delay, 
into the presence of Montezuma. Our king will 


doubtless hear with pleasure from your sovereign, and 
receive his embassador honorably. But it will be 
first necessary to inform him of your arrival, that he 
may communicate to you his royal pleasure." 

Cortez was exceedingly annoyed by this delay. 
Deeming it, however, important to secure the friend- 
ship of the Mexicans, he consented to wait until the 
return of the couriers who were immediately to be 
sent to Montezuma. The natives were not acquainted 
with the alphabet, but they had in use a sort of pic- 
ture writing, delineating upon fine cotton cloth pic- 
tures of scenes which they wished to represent. 
Teutile requested that his painters might be permitted 
to take a sketch of the Spaniards and their equipage. 
Consent being obtained, the painters commenced their 
work, which they executed with remarkable rapidity 
and skill. The fleet in the harbor, the encampment 
upon the shore, the muskets, the artillery, the horses, 
all were delineated true to life. They were so accu- 
rate in the figures and portraits of Cortez and his 
leading companions that the Spaniards immediately 
recognized them. 

When Cortez observed this remarkable skill, that 
he might impress Montezuma the more deeply 
with a sense of his power, he ordered his whole 
force to be assembled for a military review. The 
trumpets pealed forth the martial summons which the 
well-drilled bands so perfectly understood. The 


troops instantly formed in order of battle. Infantry, 
artillery, cavalry, all were at their posts. The most 
intricate and beautiful manoeuvres were performed. 
Martial music contributed its thrilling charms; ban- 
ners floated in the breeze; helmets, cuirasses, swords, 
and polished muskets gleamed in the rays of the un- 
clouded sun. Mounted horsemen bounded over the 
plain in the terrific charge, and the artillerymen, 
with rapid evolutions, moved to and fro, dragging 
over the sands their lumbering yet mysterious en- 
gines of destruction, whose awful roar and terrific 
power the Mexicans had not yet witnessed. It was a 
gorgeous spectacle even to eyes accustomed to such 
scenes. The Mexicans, in countless thousands, gazed 
upon it in silent amazement. But when, at the close, 
Cortez placed his cannon in battery, and ordered a sim- 
ultaneous discharge, aiming the heavily-shotted guns 
into the dense forest, the bewilderment of the poor 
natives passed away into unspeakable terror. They 
saw the lightning flash, they heard the roar, louder 
than the heaviest thunders. As the iron storm was 
shot through the forest, the limbs of the gigantic 
trees came crashing to the ground. Dense volumes 
of sulphurous smoke enveloped them. Even the 
boldest turned pale, and the timid shrieked and fled. 
Cortez was much pleased in seeing how deeply he 
had impressed his visitors with a sense of his power. 
The painters made a very accurate delineation of the 


whole scene to be transmitted to Montezuma. They 
then, with much ceremony, departed. 

The police regulations of Mexico were in some 
respects in advance of that which then prevailed in 
Europe. For the rapid transmission of intelligence 
from the remotest bounds of the empire to the capi- 
tal, well-trained runners were posted, at suitable sta- 
tions, all along the principal roads. Each man had a 
short stage, which he passed over with great rapidity, 
and communicated his message, verbal or written in 
the picture language, to a fresh runner. Burdens and 
governmental officers were also rapidly transmitted, in 
a sort of palanquin, in the same way, from post to 
post, by relays of men. 

A week passed while Cortez remained impatiently 
in his encampment awaiting an answer to the mes- 
sage sent to Montezuma. The friendly natives, in the 
mean time, supplied the Spaniards with every thing 
they could need. By the command of the governor, 
Teutile, more than a thousand huts of branches of 
trees and of cotton matting were reared in the vicinity 
of the encampment for the accommodation of the Mex- 
icans, who, without recompense, were abundantly 
supplying the table of Cortez and of his troops. 

On the eighth day an embassy arrived at the camp 
from the Mexican capital. Two nobles of the court, 
accompanied by a retinue of a hundred men of bur- 
den, laden with magnificent gifts from Montezuma, 


presented themselves before the pavilion of Cortez. 
The embassadors saluted the Spanish chieftain with 
the greatest reverence, bowing before him, and sur- 
rounding him with clouds of incense, which arose 
from waving censers borne by their attendants. The 
presents which they brought, in silver, in gold, in 
works of art, utility, and beauty, excited the rapture 
and the amazement of the Spaniards. There were 
specimens of workmanship in the precious metals 
which no artists in Europe could rival. A Spanish 
helmet which had been sent to Montezuma was re- 
turned filled with grains of pure gold. These costly 
gifts were opened before Cortez in lavish abundance, 
and they gave indications of opulence hitherto un- 
dreamed of. After they had been sufficiently ex- 
amined and admired, one of the embassadors very 
courteously said, 

"Our master is happy to send these tokens of his 
respect to the King of Spain. He regrets that he can 
not enjoy an interview with the Spaniards. But the 
distance of his capital is too great, and the perils of 
the journey are too imminent to allow of this pleas- 
ure. The strangers are therefore requested to return 
to their own homes with these proofs of the friendly 
feelings of Montezuma." 

Cortez was much chagrined. He earnestly, how- 
ever, renewed his application for permission to visit 
the emperor. But the embassadors, as they retired, 


assured him that another application would be una- 
vailing. They, however, took a few meager presents 
of shirts and toys, which alone remained to Cortez, 
and departed on their journey of two hundred miles, 
with the reiterated and still more earnest application 
from Cortez for permission to visit the emperor. It 
was now evident that the Mexicans had received in- 
structions from the court, and that all were anxious 
that the. Spaniards should leave the country. Though 
the natives manifested no hostility, they immediately 
became cold and reserved, and ceased to supply the 
camp with food. With the Spaniards the charm of 
novelty was over. Insects annoyed them. They 
were blistered by the rays of a meridian sun, reflected 
from the burning sands of the beach. Sickness entered 
the camp, and thirty died. Disaffection began to 
manifest itself, and some were anxious to return to 

But the treasures which had been received from 
Montezuma, so rich and so abundant, inspired Cortez 
and his gold-loving companions with the most intense 
desire to penetrate an empire of so much opulence. 
They, however, waited patiently ten days, when the 
embassadors again returned. As before, they came 
laden with truly imperial gifts. The gold alone of 
the ornaments which they brought was valued by the 
Spaniards at more than fifty thousand dollars. The 
message from Montezuma was, however, still more 


peremptory than the first. He declared that he could 
not permit the Spaniards to approach his capital. 
Cortez, though excessively vexed, endeavored to 
smother the outward expression of his irritation. He 
gave the embassadors a courteous response, but, turn- 
ing to his officers, he said, 

"This is truly a rich and a powerful prince. Yet 
it shall go hard but we v/ill one day pay him a visit 
in his capital." 

"At this moment," says Diaz, "the bell tolled for 
the Ave Maria, and all of us fell upon our knees 
before the holy cross. The Mexican noblemen being 
very inquisitive to know the meaning of this, Cortez 
hinted to the reverend father Olmedo the propriety of 
a sermon, such as should convey to them the truths 
of our holy faith. Father Olmedo accordingly preached, 
like an excellent theologian which he was, explaining 
the mysteries of the cross, at the sight of which the 
evil beings they worshiped as gods fled away. These 
subjects, and much more, he dilated upon. It was 
perfectly explained to the Mexicans and understood 
by them, and they promised to relate all they had 
seen and heard to their sovereign. He also declared 
to them that among the principal objects of our mis- 
sion thiiher were those of putting a stop to human 
sacrifices, injustices and idolatrous worship; and then, 
presenting \hem with an image of our Holy Virgin, 
with her son in her arms, he desired them to take it 


with them, to venerate it, and to plant crosses similar 
to that before them in their temples." 

The embassadors again retired with dignity and 
with courtesy, yet with reserve indicative of deep dis- 
pleasure at the pertinacity of the Spaniards. That 
night every hut of the natives was abandoned. When 
the morning sun arose, silence and solitude reigned 
upon the spot which had so recently witnessed the 
Hfe and clamor of an innumerable multitude. Cortez 
and his companions were left alone. The long hours 
of the tropical day passed slowly, and no native ap- 
proached the encampment. No food was to be ob- 
tained. Not only was all friendly intercourse thus 
suspended, but the Spaniards had much reason to fear 
that preparations were making for an assault. The 
murmuring in the camp increased. Two parties were 
formed: one party were in favor of returning to Cuba, 
affirming that it was madness to think of the subju- 
gation by force of arms of so mighty an empire 
with so feeble an armament. One of the generals, 
Diego de Ordaz, was deputed by the disaffected 
to communicate these sentiments to Cortez, and 
to assure him that it was the general voice of the 

The shrewdness of this extraordinary man was 
peculiarly conspicuous in this crisis. He promptly, 
and apparently with cordiality, assented to their 
views, and began to make arrangements to relinquish 


the enterprise. Orders were issued to commence the 

While thus dissimulating, he roused his friends to 
effort, and secretly employed all his powers to excite 
a mutiny in the camp against a return. Every mo- 
tive was plied to stimulate the bold and the avari- 
cious to persevere in an undertaking where glory and 
wealth held out such attractions. His emissaries were 
completely successful. The whole camp was in a 
ferment. Before the sun went down, a large party 
of the soldiers surrounded his tent, as in open mutiny. 
They declared that, having entered upon a majestic 
enterprise, it was poltroonery to abandon it upon the 
first aspect of danger; that they were determined to 
persevere, and that, if Cortez wished to return with 
the cowards to Cuba, they would instantly choose 
another general to guide them in the career of glory 
upon which they had entered. 

Cortez was delighted with the success of his 
stratagem. He, however, affected surprise, and de- 
clared that his orders for re-embarking were issued 
from the persuasion that the troops wished to return; 
that, to gratify them, he had been willing to sacrifice 
his own private judgment. He assured the mutineers 
that it afforded him the highest gratification to find 
that they were true Castilians, with minds elevated to 
the accomplishment of heroic deeds. He affirmed 
that before such strong arms and bold hearts all peril 

M. of H.— XV— 6 


would vanish. The applause with which this speech 
was greeted was so long and enthusiastic that even 
the murmurers were soon induced to join the acclama- 
tions. Thus adroitly Cortez again enthroned himself 
as the undisputed chieftain of an enthusiastic band. 

He decided immediately to establish a settlement 
on the sea-coast as the nucleus of a colony. From 
that point as the basis of operations, he would, with 
the terrors of artillery and cavalry, boldly penetrate 
the interior. He assembled the principal officers of 
the army, and by their suffrages elected the magis- 
trates and a council for the new colony. He skillfully 
so arranged it that all the magistrates chosen were 
his warm partisans. 

The council assembled for the organization of the 
government. As soon as the assembly was convened, 
Cortez asked permission to enter it. Bowing with 
the most profound respect before the new govern- 
ment thus organized, that he might set an example 
of the most humble and submissive obedience, he ad- 
dressed them in the following terms: 

" By the establishment of the colony and the or- 
ganization of the colonial government, this august 
tribunal is henceforth invested with supreme jurisdic- 
tion, and is clothed with the authority, and represents 
the person of the sovereign. I accordingly present 
myself before you with the same dutiful fidelity as if I 


were addressing my royal master, The safety of this 
colony, threatened by the hostility of a mighty em- 
pire, depends upon the subordination and discipline 
preserved among the troops. But my right to com- 
mand is derived from a commission granted by the 
Governor of Cuba. As that commission has been 
long since revoked, my right to command may well 
be questioned. It is of the utmost importance, in the 
present condition of affairs, that the commander-in- 
chief should not act upon a dubious title. There is 
now required the most implicit obedience to orders, 
and the army can not act with efficiency if it has 
any occasion to dispute the powers of its general. 

^ Moved by these considerations, I now resign 
into your hands, as the representatives of the sover- 
eign, all my authority. As you alone have the right 
to choose, and the power to confer full jurisdiction, 
upon you it devolves to choose some one, in the 
king's name, to guide the army in its future opera- 
tions. For my own part, such is my zeal in the 
service in which we are engaged, that I would most 
cheerfully take up a pike with the same hand which 
lays down the general's truncheon, and convince my 
fellow-soldiers that, though accustomed to command, 
I have not forgotten how to obey." 

Thus saying, he laid his commission from Velas- 
quez upon the table, and after kissing his truncheon, 


delivered it to thy chief magistrate and withdrew. 
This was consummate acting. The succeeding steps 
were all previously arranged. He was immediately 
elected, by unanimous suffrage, chief justice of the 
colony, and captain general of the army. His com- 
mission was oidered to be made out in the name of 
Charles V. of Spain, and was to continue in force 
until the royal pleasure should be farther known. 
The troops were immediately assembled and informed 
of the resolve. They ratified it with unbounded ap- 
plause. The air resounded with acclamations, and all 
vowed obedience, even to death, to the authority of 
Cortez. Thus adroitly this bold adventurer shook off 
his dependence upon Velasquez, and assumed the 
dignity of an independent governor, responsible only 
to his sovereign. 

There were a few adherents of Velasquez who 
remonstrated against these unprecedented measures. 
Cortez, with characteristic energy, seized them and 
placed them in imprisonment, loaded with chains, on 
board one of the ships. This rigor overawed and si- 
lenced the rest. Cortez, however, soon succeeded, 
by flattering attentions and by gifts, in securing a 
cordial reconciliation with his opponents. He was 
now strong in undisputed authority. 

In the midst of these events, one day five Indians 
of rank came, in rather a mysterious manner, to the 
camp, and solicited an interview with Cortez. They 


represented themselves as envoys from the chief of 
Zempoalla, a large town at no great distance. This 
chief reigned over the powerful nation of Totonacs. 
His people had been conquered by Montezuma, and 
annexed to the Mexican empire. They were restive 
under the yoke, and would gladly avail themselves of 
an alliance with the Spaniards to regain their inde- 

Cortez listened eagerly to this statement. It pre- 
sented just the opportunity which he desired. He saw 
at once that by exciting civil war, and arraying one 
portion of the empire against another, he might ac- 
complish his ends. He also judged that, in an em- 
pire so vast, there must be other provinces where 
disaffection could be excited. He therefore received 
these envoys most graciously, and promised very soon 
to visit their metropolis. 

The spot where Cortez had landed was not a good 
location for the establishment of a city. A party was 
sent along the coast to seek a better harbor for the 
ships and a more eligible site for the city. At the 
expiration of twelve days the party returned, having 
discovered a fine harbor and fertile soil at a little vil- 
lage called Quiabislan, about forty miles to the north- 
ward. This village was fortunately but a few miles 
distant from Zempoalla. Most of the heavy guns 
were re-embarked, and the fleet was ordered to coast 
along the shore to the appointed rendezvous at Quia- 


bislan. Then, heading his troops, he set out on a 
bold march across the country to meet his fleet, ar- 
ranging to pass through Zempoalla by the way. 

The beauty of the country through which they 
marched entranced the hearts even of these stern 
warriors. They were never weary of expressing their 
delight in view of the terrestrial paradise which they 
had discovered. When the Spaniards had arrived 
within three miles of Zempoalla, a delegation met 
them from the city, accompanied by a vast concourse 
of men and women. The adventurers were greeted 
with courteous words, and gifts of gold, and fruits, 
and flowers. The natives possessed many attractions 
of person, and their frank and friendly manners were 
peculiarly winning. A singular degree of mental re- 
finement was to be seen in their passionate love of 
flowers, with which they adorned their persons, and 
which bloomed, in the utmost profusion, around their 
dwellings. Cortez and his steed were almost covered 
with wreaths and garlands of roses, woven by the 
fair hands of his newly-found friends. 

The Spaniards were quite amazed in entering the 
city of Zempoalla. They found a beautiful town, 
with streets perfectly clean — for they had no beasts 
of burden — lined with spacious stone houses, and 
shaded with ornamental trees. These paved streets 
were kept almost as free from litter as a parlor floor, 
and they were thronged with, apparently, a refined 


and happy people. A tropical sun, whose rays were 
tempered by the ocean breeze, fell warmly upon 
them during all the months of the year. Soil of as- 
tonishing fertility supplied them abundantly with 
food, while a genial climate invited them to indulgence 
and repose. At first glance it would seem that the 
doom of Adam's fall had not yet reached the dwell- 
ings of Zempoalla. A few hours' residence in the 
city, however, conclusively proved that here, as else- 
where, man is born to mourn. 

As Cortez entered the gates of the city, he was 
met and welcomed with great pomp by the cacique 
of Zempoalla. He was excessively corpulent, but very 
polite and highly polished in his manners. Marina 
and Aguilar acted as interpreters. 

"1 am come," said Cortez, "from the ends of the 
earth. I serve a monarch who is powerful, and whose 
goodness equals his power. He has sent me hither, 
that I may give some account of the inhabitants of 
this part of the world. He has commanded me to do 
good to all men, and particularly to aid the oppressed 
and to punish their oppressors. To you, Lord of 
Zempoalla, I offer my services. Whatever you may 
command, I and my troops will cheerfully perform." 

The cacique of Zempoalla replied, 

" Gracious stranger, 1 can not sufficiently commend 
your benevolence, and none can stand more in need 
of it. You see before you a man wearied out with 


unmerited wrongs. I and my people are crushed and 
trodden under foot by the most tyrannical power 
upon earth. We were once an independent and a 
happy people, but the prosperity of the Totonacs is 
now destroyed. The power of our nobles is gone. 
We are robbed of the produce of cur fields. Our sons 
are torn from us for sacrifices, and our daughters for 

"The Mexicans are our conquerors and oppressors. 
They heap these calamities upon us, robbing us of 
our substance, and despoiling us of our children. In 
the pride of aggression, they have marched from con- 
quest to conquest, till they gather tribute from every 
land. And now, mighty warrior, we implore of thy 
strength and kindness that thou wouldst enable us to 
resist these tyrants, and deliver us from their exac- 

Cortez warily replied: "I will gladly aid you, but 
let us not be rash. I will dwell with you a while, 
and whenever I shall see a suitable occasion to pun- 
ish your enemies and to relieve you from their im- 
positions, you may rely upon my aid to humble their 
pride and power." 

The rugged army of Cortez then advanced through 
the streets of Zempoalla to the spacious court-yard of 
the temple assigned for their accommodation. As in 
solid column, with floating banners and bugle notes, 
they paraded the streets, headed by the cavalry of 


sixteen horses, animals the Totonacs had never seen 
before, and followed by the lumbering artillery, in- 
struments, in the eyes of the Totonacs, of supernatu- 
ral power, which, with thunder roar, sped lightning 
bolts, the natives gazed with admiration upon the im- 
posing spectacle, and the air resounded with their 

The next morning Cortez, with most of his army, 
continued his march some twelve miles farther to 
meet his fleet at Quiabislan. The cacique hospitably 
sent with him four hundred men of burden to convey 
his baggage. The spot which had been selected as 
the site of the new town, which was to be the cap- 
ital of the Spanish colony, met the approbation of 
Cortez. He immediately commenced erecting huts 
and surrounding the town with fortifications of suffi- 
cient strength to resist any assault from the natives. 
Every man in the army, the officers as well as the 
soldiers, engaged laboriously in this work. No one 
toiled in this enterprise with more patient endurance 
than the extraordinary commander of this extraordinary 
band. The Totonacs from Zempoalla and Quiabislan, 
encouraged by their caciques, also lent their aid to 
the enterprise with hearty good will. Thousands of 
hands were thus employed; provisions flowed into the 
camp in all abundance, and the works proceeded 
with great rapidity. The vicinity was densely popu- 
lated, and large numbers of the listless natives, women 


and children, were attracted to the spot to witness 
the busy scene, so novel and so exciting 

But such proceedings could not escape the vigi- 
lance of the officers of Montezuma. In the midst of 
this state of things, suddenly one day a strange com- 
motion was witnessed in the crowd, and the natives, 
both people and chiefs, gave indications of great ter- 
ror. Five strangers appeared — tall, imposing men, 
with bouquets of flowers in their hands, and followed 
by obsequious attendants. Haughtily these strangers 
passed through the place, looking sternly upon the 
Spaniards, without deigning to address them either 
by a word or a gesture. They were lords from the 
court of Montezuma. Their power was invincible and 
terrible. They had witnessed with their own eyes 
these rebellious indications of the subjects of Mexico. 
The chiefs of the Totonacs turned pale with conster- 
nation. All this was explained to Cortez by Marina. 

The Totonac chiefs were imperiously summoned 
to appear immediately before the lords of Montezuma. 
Like terrified children they obeyed. Soon they re- 
turned, trembling, to Cortez, and informed him that 
the Mexican lords were indignant at the support 
which they had afforded the Spaniards, contrary to 
the express will of their emperor, and that they de- 
manded as the penalty twenty young men and twenty 
young women of the Totonacs, to be offered in sacri- 
fice to their gods. 


Cortez assumed an air of indignation and of au- 
thority as he eagerly availed himself of this oppor- 
tunity of promoting an open rupture between the 
Totonacs and the Mexicans. He declared that he 
would never consent to any such abominable practices 
of heathenism. He haughtily commanded the Totonac 
chiefs immediately to arrest the lords of Montezuma, 
and throw them into prison. The poor chiefs were 
appalled beyond measure at the very idea of an act 
so irrevocable and so unpardonable. They had long 
been accustomed to consider Montezuma as possessing 
power which nothing on earth could resist. Monte- 
zuma swayed the scepter of a Caesar, and bold in- 
deed must he be who would venture to brave his 

But, on the other hand, they had already offended 
beyond hope of pardon by entertaining the intruders 
contrary to the positive command of their sovereign. 
Twenty of their sons and daughters were to bleed 
upon the altars of sacrifice. Their only hope was 
now in Cortez. Should he abandon them, they were 
ruined hopelessly. They deemed it possible that, 
with the thunder and the lightning at his command, 
he might be able to set at defiance that mighty Mex- 
ican power which had hitherto been found invincible. 

In this dreadful dilemma, they yielded to the inex- 
orable demand of Cortez, and tremblingly arrested 
the Mexican lords. The Rubicon was now passed. 


The Totonacs were from that moment the abject 
slaves of Cortez. Their only protection from the 
most awful doom was in his strong arm, and their 
persons, their property, their all, were entirely at his 

Cortez then condescended to perform a deed of 
cunning and of perfidy which has left a stain upon 
his character which never can be washed away. In 
the night he ordered one of his people secretly to as- 
sist two of the Mexican lords in their escape. They 
were privately brought into his presence. With guile- 
ful words, which ought to have blistered his tongue, 
he declared that they, by their arrest, had received 
insult and outrage from the Totonacs, which he sin- 
cerely regretted, and would gladly have prevented. 
He assured them of the great pleasure which it af- 
forded him to aid them in their escape. He promised 
to do every thing in his power to secure the release 
of the others, and wished them to return to the court 
of their monarch, and assure him of the friendly 
spirit of the Spaniards, of which this act was to be a 
conspicuous proof. He then sent six strong rowers 
to convey them secretly in a boat beyond the reach 
of pursuit. The next morning, in the same guileful 
way, all the rest were liberated, and sent with a simi- 
lar message to the court of Montezuma. 

Such was the treachery with which Cortez re- 
warded his faithful allies. With perfidy so detestable, 


he endeavored to foment civil discord in the empire 
of Montezuma, pretending to be himself the friend of 
each of the parties whose hostility he had excited, 
and ready to espouse either side which might ap- 
pear most available for the promotion of his am- 
bitious plans. History has no language too severe 
to condemn an action so utterly abominable. It 
is treason to virtue to speak mildly of atrocious 

Cortez named the infant city he was erecting The 
Rich City of the True Cross, Villa Rica de la Vera 
Cru%. "The two principles of avarice and enthu- 
siasm," says Robertson, "which prompted the Span- 
iards in all their enterprises in the New World, seem 
to have concurred in suggesting the name which 
Cortez bestowed on his infant settlement." This city 
was a few miles north of the present city of Vera 

While Cortez was busily employed in laying the 
foundations of his colony, and gathering around him 
native aid in preparation for a march into the interior, 
another embassy from the court of Montezuma ap- 
peared in the busy streets of Vera Cruz. The Mexi- 
can emperor, alarmed by the tidings he received of 
the persistent boldness of the Spaniards, and of their 
appalling and supernatural power, deemed it wise to 
accept the courtesy which had been offered him in 
the liberation of his imprisoned lords, and to adopt a 


conciliatory policy. The Totonacs were amazed by 
this evidence that even the mighty Montezuma was 
overawed by the power of the Spaniards. This 
greatly increased their veneration for their European 


The Tlascalans Subjugated. 

Exultation of the Totonacs. — The eight maidens and their baptism. — Endeav- 
ors to induce the acceptance of Christianity. — The result. — Fanaticism 
of the Spaniards. — Destruction of the idols.- -Dismay of the Indians. — 
Celebration of mass. — The harangue. — The change. — Emotions of the 
natives. — They accept the new idols. — Cortez's embarrassment respect- 
ing his commission. — The letter. — Anticipation of wealth. — Presents. — 
Embassadors sent to the king. — Punishment of the conspirators. — Dis- 
turbing developments. — Destruction of the fleet. — Indignation of the 
soldiers. — Cortez wins the approval of his men. — Preparations for the 
journey. — The departure and march to Mexico. — Arrival of a strange 
vessel, — Capture of prisoners. — The stratagem. — The re-enforcement. — 
They arrive at Jalapa. — Naulinco. — Erection of the cross. — Ascent of 
the Cordilleras. — The city of Tlatlanquitepec— Indications of idolatry. — 
A cold reception. — Cortez's mission. — His commands, and their refusal 
to obey. — Advice of Father Olmedo. — Arrival at Xalacingo. — Friendly 
treatment. — Embassadors to the Tlascalan capital. — They are seized, 
but escape. — The Spaniards determine to force a passage. — The attack. 
— The Tlascalans forced to retire. — Destruction of the provisions. — The 
sacrament. — Chivalry of the barbarians. — A supply of provisions. — En- 
counter the enemy. — Confession.— Release of the captive chiefs. — Tlas- 
calanian mode of making peace. — Cortez prepares for battle. — The 
battle. — Courage of the enemy. — The natives vanquished. — Surprise at 
the small losses of the Spaniards. — Courage of the Spaniards accounted 
for. — The midnight foray. — The Tlascalanians sue for peace. — Cruel 
treatment of the embassadors. — The Tlascalans subdued. — Speech of 
the commander-in-chief. — They march to the city of Tlascala. — Appear- 
ance of the city. — Treatment of the vanquished natives. — Peril of 
Cortez's army. — Murmurs dispelled. — Population of the city. 

The Totonacs were now exceedingly exultant. 
They were unwearied in extolling their allies, 
and in proclaiming their future independence 
of their Mexican conquerors. They urged other neigh- 
boring provinces to join them, and become the vassals 



of the omnipotent Spaniards. They raised a strong 
army, which they placed under the command of 
Cortez to obey his bidding. To strengthen the bonds 
of alliance, the cacique of Zempoalla selected eight of 
the most beautiful maidens of his country, all of the 
first families, to be united in marriage to the Spanish 
generals. Cortez courteously but decisively informed 
the chief that, before such union could be consum- 
mated, these maidens must all renounce idolatry and 
be baptized. The Totonacs, without much apparent 
reluctance, yielded. Emboldened by this success, 
Cortez now made very strenuous efforts to induce the 
chief and all the tribe to abandon their idols and the 
cruel rites of heathenism, and to accept in their stead 
the symbols of Christianity. 

But upon this point the cacique was inflexible. 
"We honor your friendship, noble Cortez," he firmly 
replied, "and we are grateful to you for the generous 
interest you take in our welfare; but the gods are 
greater than man. Earthly benefactors are but the 
ministers of their favor. Gratitude to the gods is 
our first duty. Health, plenty, all blessings are from 
their bounty. We dread their anger more than the 
displeasure of the mightiest of men. Should we offend 
them, inevitable destruction will overwhelm me and 
my people." 

Cortez was provoked by such obstinacy. He was 
incapable of appreciating the nobility of these senti- 


ments, and of perceiving that such minds needed but 
instruction to lead them to reverence the true God. 
The sincere idolater, who worships according to the 
little knowledge he has, is immeasurably elevated, in 
dignity of character, above the mere nominal Christian, 
who knows the true God, and yet disregards him. 
But Cortez, inspired by fanatic zeal, treated these 
men, who deserved tender consideration, with insult 
and contempt. He resolved recklessly to demolish 
their idols, and to compel the Totonacs to receive in 
exchange the images of Rome. 

He immediately assembled his soldiers, and thus 
addressed them: "Soldiers! We are Spaniards. We 
inherit from our ancestors the love of our holy faith. 
Let us prostrate these vile images. Let us plant the 
cross, and call the heathen to the feet of that holy 
symbol. Heaven will never smile upon our enterprise 
if we countenance the atrocities of heathenism. For 
my part, 1 am resolved that these pagan idols shall 
be destroyed this very hour, even if it cost me my 

The fanaticism of the Spaniards was now effectu- 
ally roused. In solid column, a strong division marched 
toward one of the most imposing of the Totonac 
temples. The alarm spread wildly through the thronged 
streets of Zempoalla. The whole population seized 
their arms to defend their gods. A scene of fearful 
confusion ensued. Firmly the inflexible Spaniards 

M. ofH.— xv— 7 


strode on. Fifty men ascended the winding stairs to 
the summit of the pyramidal temple, tore down the 
massive wooden idols, and tumbled them into the 
streets. They then collected the mutilated fragments, 
and burned them to ashes. The Indians looked on in 
dismay, with tears and groans. 

The heathen temple was then emptied, swept, and 
garnished. The Totonac chiefs, and the priests clot- 
ted with the blood of their brutal sacrifices, now 
docile as children, obeyed obsequiously the demands 
of the haughty reformer. He ordered these unen- 
lightened pagan priests to have their heads shorn, to 
be dressed in the white robes of the Catholic priest- 
hood, and, with lighted candles in their hands, they 
were constrained to assist in performing the rites of 
the papal Church. An image of the Virgin was in- 
stalled in the shrine which had been polluted by all 
the horrid orgies of pagan abominations. Mass was 
celebrated upon the altar where human hearts, gory 
and quivering, had for ages been offered in awful 
sacrifice. The prayers and the chants of Christianity 
ascended from the spot where idolaters had slain 
their victims and implored vengeance upon their 

Cortez then himself earnestly and eloquently ha- 
rangued the people, assuring them that henceforth 
the Spaniards and the Totonacs were Christian broth- 
ers, and that under the protection of the Holy Virgin, 


the mother of Christ, they would both certainly be 

Violent as were these deeds, it is undeniable that 
they ushered in a blessed change. The very lowest 
and most corrupt form of Christianity is infinitely su- 
perior to the most refined creations of paganism. The 
natives gradually recovered from their terror. They 
gazed with admiration upon the pageant of the mass, 
with its gorgeous accompaniments of incense, music, 
embroidered robes, and solemn processions. The 
Spanish historians who witnessed the scene record 
that many of the Indians were so overcome with 
pious emotion, in thus beholding, for the first time, 
the mysteries of Christianity, that they freely wept. 
No more resistance was made. The Totonacs, thus 
easily converted, apparently with cheerfulness ex- 
changed the bloody and hideous idols of Mexico for 
the more attractive and more merciful idols of Rome. 
Let not this remark be attributed to want of candor; 
for no one can deny that, to these uninstructed na- 
tives, it was merely an exchange of idols. 

Cortez had now been in Mexico nearly three 
months. Every moment had been occupied in the 
accomplishment of objects which he deemed of fun- 
damental importance. He was, however, evidently 
somewhat embarrassed respecting the validity of his 
title to command. It was at least doubtful whether 
the king would recognize the authority of a colony 


established in so novel a manner. Cortez also well 
knew that Velasquez would apply to his sovereign 
for redress for the injuries which he had received. 
The danger was by no means small that, by the com- 
mand of the king, Cortez would be degraded and 
punished as a usurper of power. 

Before commencing his march into the interior, he 
deemed it of the utmost importance to take every 
possible precaution against this danger. He influenced 
the magistrates of Vera Cruz to address a letter to the 
Spanish sovereign in justification of the course which 
had been pursued, and to implore the king to ratify 
what had been done in his name, and to confirm 
Cortez in the supreme command. Cortez also wrote 
himself a long and labored letter to the Emperor 
Charles V., full of protestations of loyalty and of zeal 
for the wealth and the renown of the Spanish court. 
To add weight to his letter, it was accompanied by 
as rich treasures from the New World as he had thus 
far been able to accumulate. Such was the ascend- 
ency which this extraordinary man had attained over 
the minds of his associates, and so confident were 
they in their anticipations of boundless wealth, that 
all the soldiers, without a murmur, at the suggestion 
of Cortez, relinquished their part of the public treas- 
ure, that the whole might be sent to the king. Two 
of the chief magistrates of the colony, Portocarrero 
and Montejo, were sent in one of the two vessels 


which were fitted out to Spain to convey these letters 
and presents. They were directed not to stop at the 
island of Cuba, lest they should be detained by Velas- 
quez. "Ere they embarked, mass was celebrated and 
prayers were offered for a prosperous voyage. It was 
now the month of July, 15 19. 

Just after the vessels had sailed, Cortez was much 
disturbed by a dangerous conspiracy which broke out 
in the camp. Some of the disaffected, who had been 
silenced, but not reconciled, with great secresy ma- 
tured a plan for seizing one of the brigantines and 
making their escape to Cuba. The conspirators had 
actually gone on board the vessel, and were ready to 
weigh the anchor and spread the sails, when one of 
the number repented of his treachery, and disclosed the 
plot to Cortez. 

The stern chieftain immediately went himself on 
board the vessel. The crime was too palpable to be 
denied. He ordered all to be seized and brought on 
shore. Cortez resolved to punish with a severity 
which should intimidate against any renewal of a 
similar attempt. The two ringleaders were imme- 
diately put to death. The pilot had one of his feet 
cut off. Two of the sailors received two hundred 
lashes. The rest were spared. 

It is recorded that Cortez, as he was ratifying this 
sentence, gave a deep sigh, and exclaimed, 

"How happy is he who is not able to write, and 


is thereby prevented from signing the death-warrants 
of men! " 

But this development of disaffection disturbed 
Cortez exceedingly. He was about to march two 
hundred miles into the interior. It would be neces- 
sary to leave a garrison at Vera Cruz. The fleet 
would be lying idly at anchor in the harbor. A more 
successful attempt might be made during his absence; 
and Velasquez, informed thus of his position, might 
easily send, from the powerful colony of Cuba, a 
force sufficient to take possession of Vera Cruz, and 
thus leave Cortez in the interior but a desperate ad- 
venturer, wandering in the midst of hostile nations. 
In this emergency, he came to the decision, of almost 
unparalleled boldness, to destroy the fleet! He would 
thus place himself in a distant land, with but five 
hundred men, hopelessly cut off from all retreat, and 
exposed to assault from exasperated nations number- 
ing many millions. 

This plan was no sooner conceived than executed. 
He assembled his principal friends privately, and in- 
formed them of his determination. 

"We shall thus," said he, "gain all the sailors for 
soldiers, and the men, having no possibility of escape, 
must either conquer or die." 

While most of the soldiers were employed at 
Zempoalla, the ships were dismantled of every mova- 
ble article, and they were then scuttled and sunk. 


In a few hours the majestic ocean rose and fell in 
silent solitude where the fleet had so proudly floated. 
One small vessel only was left. 

When the soldiers heard of this desperate deed, 
they were struck with consternation. They were ap- 
parently now forever separated from friends and 
home. In case of disaster, escape was impossible 
and destruction sure. Murmurs of indignation, loud 
and deep, began to rise against Cortez. He immedi- 
ately gathered his troops around him, and, by his 
peculiar tact, soothed their anger, and won them to 
approval of his course. They at once saw that mur- 
murs would now be of no avail; that their destiny 
was henceforth entirely dependent upon their obedi- 
ence to their leader. It was evident to all that the 
least insubordination, in the position of peril in which 
they were placed, would lead to inevitable ruin. Cortez 
closed his speech with the following forcible words: 

"As for me, I have chosen my part. I will re° 
main here while there is one to bear me company. 
If there be any so craven as to shrink from sharing 
the danger of our glorious enterprise, let them go 
home. There is still one vessel left. Let them take 
that and return to Cuba. They can tell there how 
they have deserted their commander and their com- 
rades, and can wait patiently till we return, loaded 
with the treasures of the Mexicans." 


These excitable men were roused to enthusiasm 
by this speech. One general shout arose, "To Mex- 
ico! to Mexico!" Cortez now made vigorous prepa- 
rations for his march, uninvited and even forbidden, 
to the capital of Montezuma. All was alacrity in the 
camp, and the Totonac allies were as zealous in their 
preparations as were the Spaniards. 

On the 15th of August, 15 19, commenced this 
ever-memorable march. The force of Cortez consisted 
of four hundred Spaniards, fifteen horses, and seven 
pieces of artillery. The small remainder of his troops, 
some being sick or otherwise disabled, were left in 
garrison at Vera Cruz. The cacique of the Totonacs 
also furnished him with an army of two thousand 
three hundred men. Of these, two hundred were 
what were called men of burden, trained to carry 
heavy loads and to perform all arduous labor. These 
men were invaluable in carrying the luggage and in 
dragging the heavy artillery. Cortez assembled his 
forces at Zempoalla. At the moment of their depar- 
ture, he called all the Spaniards around him, and ad- 
dressed them in a devout speech. 

"The blessed Savior," said he, "will give us vic- 
tory. We have now no other security than the favor 
of God and our own stout hearts." 

The morning was serene and cloudless when the 
army commenced its march, which led to scenes of 
unparalleled cruelty and of blood, lust as the advance 


guard was leaving, a messenger brought the intelli- 
gence that a strange vessel was seen cruising off the 
coast near Vera Cruz. Cortez was alarmed, being ap- 
prehensive that it was some ship belonging to a fleet 
sent against him by Velasquez. He immediately set 
off with a small party of horse toward the shore. A 
boat left the vessel and landed four men. Cortez 
seized them, and learned that this ship was sent 
with two others, conveying two hundred and seventy 
soldiers. The Governor of Jamaica having learned of 
the expedition of Cortez, had sent this embassy to 
take possession of the country, and to inform Cortez 
that, by a royal commission from the sovereign, the 
Governor of Jamaica was entitled to have authority 
ovei the whole coast. Cortez impressed the men as 
soldiers, and sent them to be added to his army. 
Hoping to get a few more, he hid, with his guard, 
for a whole night behind some sand-hills, expecting 
that others might land to look for their lost comrades. 
Being disappointed in this expectation, he resorted to 
a stratagem to lure others on shore. Four of his men 
were dressed in the clothes of the prisoners, and 
sent to the coast to make signals A boat was soon 
seen making for the shore; but, as soon as three had 
landed, some suspicion excited the fears of the rest, 
and they pushed off from the beach. The three were, 
however, instantly secured, and were immediately 
sent to join their companions in the ranks. Cortez 


thus obtained an important re-inforcement of seven 

Delaying no longer, the whole army was speedily 
on the march. For two days they moved gayly 
along through an enchanting country of luxuriant fo- 
liage, waving grain, flowers, and perfume. They en- 
countered no opposition. Indian villages were thickly 
scattered around, and scenery of surpassing magnifi- 
cence and loveliness was continually opening before 
their eyes. On the evening of the second day they 
arrived at the beautiful town of Jalapa, which was 
filled with the rural residences of the wealthy natives, 
and whose elevated site commanded a prospect in 
which the beautiful and the sublime were most lav- 
ishly blended. 

Still continuing their march through a well-settled 
country, as they ascended the gradual slope of the 
Cordilleras, on the fourth day they arrived at Nauiinco. 
This was a large and populous town, containing many 
massive temples, whose altars were ever crimsoned 
with human gore. The adventurers were received 
here, however, with great kindness. The sight of 
these heathen temples inspired Cortez, as usual, with 
intense zeal to convert the natives to Christianity. 
Time pressed, and it was not safe to indulge in delay. 
The Indians were bewildered rather than instructed 
by the exhortations of the Spanish priests. They, 
however, consented that Cortez should rear a large 


cross in the center of their market-place as a me- 
morial of his visit. The enthusiastic Spaniard devoutly 
hoped that the sight of the cross alone would excite 
the devotion of the natives. 

They had now ascended far up the gentle ascent 
of the Cordilleras, and were entering the defiles of 
the mountains. Here they encountered rugged paths, 
and fierce storms of wind and sleet. A weary march 
of three days brought them to the high and extended 
table-land so characteristic of this country, seven 
thousand feet above the level of the sea. Here they 
found a fertile and flowery savanna extending before 
them for many leagues. The country was highly 
cultivated, and luxuriantly adorned with hedges, with 
groves, with waving fields of maize, and with pic- 
turesque towns and villages. God did indeed seem 
to smile upon these reckless adventurers. Thus far 
their march had been as a delightful holiday excur- 

They soon arrived at Tlatlanquitepec. It was even 
more populous and improving in its architecture than 
Zempoalla. The stone houses were spacious and 
comfortable. Thirteen massive temples testified to 
the religious fervor of the people. But here they wit- 
nessed the most appalling indications of the horrid 
atrocities of pagan idolatry. They found, piled in or- 
der, as they judged, one hundred thousand skulls of 
human victims who had been offered in sacrifice to 


their gods.* There was a Mexican garrison stationed 
in this place, but not sufficiently strong to resist the 
invaders. They, however, gave Cortez a very cold 
reception, and endeavored to discourage him from ad- 
vancing by glowing descriptions of the wealth and 
power of the monarch whose displeasure he was in- 
curring. These developments, however, rather incited 
anew the zeal of the Spaniards. Cortez, with com- 
mendable zeal, again made vigorous but unavailing 
efforts to induce these benighted pagans to renounce 
their cruel and bloodstained idols, and accept the re- 
ligion of Jesus. Poorly as Cortez was instructed in 
the doctrines and the precepts of the Gospel, Chris- 
tianity, even as darkly discerned by his mind, was 
infinitely superior to the sanguinary religious rites of 
these idolaters. 

"We come," said he, firmly, to the chiefs and the 
principal personages of the town, "from a distant 
country, to warn the great Montezuma to desist from 
human sacrifices, and all outrages upon his own vas- 
sals or his neighbors, and to require from him sub- 
mission to our monarch; and I now require you, all 
who hear me, to renounce your human sacrifices, 
cannibal feasts, and other abominable practices, for 

* " Near some temples were laid numbers of human skeletons, so 
arranged that they could be counted with ease and certainty. I am 
convinced, from my own observation, that there were above a hun- 
dred thousand. I repeat it, I am sure that there were more than a 
hundred thousand." — Bernal Diaz, p. 91. 


such is the command of our Lord God, whom we 
adore, who gives us life and death, and who is to 
raise us up to heaven." 

The natives, however, clung to the debasing faith 
of their fathers. The zeal of Cortez was roused. He 
regarded the hideous idols as representatives of devils, 
whom it was right, with any violence, to overthrow. 
He was just about ordering an onslaught upon the 
temples with sword and hatchet, when the prudent 
Father Olmedo dissuaded him. 

" By introducing our religion thus violently," said 
this truly good man, "we shall but expose the 
sacred symbol of the cross and the image of the 
Blessed Virgin to insult as soon as we shall have 
departed. We must wait till we can instruct their 
dark minds, so that from the heart they may embrace 
our faith." 

And here let us record the full and the cordial ad- 
mission, that the Roman Catholic Church, notwith- 
standing its corruptions, has sent out into the wilds 
of heathenism as devoted Christians as the world has 
ever seen. 

After a rest in this city of five days, the route was 
again commenced. The road wound picturesquely 
along the banks of a broad and tranquil stream, fringed 
with an unbroken line of Indian villages. Some 
twenty leagues of travel brought them to the large 
*own of Xalacingo. Here they met with friendly 


treatment. They were now on the frontiers of a very 
powerful nation, called the Tlascalans, who, by their 
fierce and warlike habits, had thus far succeeded in 
resisting the aggressions of the Mexicans. The whole 
nation was organized into a camp, and thus, though 
many bloody battles had been fought, the Tlascalans 
maintained their independence. 

Cortez was quite sanguine that he should be able 
to form an alliance with this people. He therefore 
decided to rest his army for a few days, while an 
embassy should be sent to the Tlascalan capital to 
solicit permission to pass through their country, and 
gently to intimate an alliance. Four Zempoallans of 
lofty rank were selected as embassadors. In accord- 
ance with the custom of the country, they were 
dressed in official costume, with flowing mantles, and 
each bearing arrows tipped with white feathers, the 
symbol of peace. 

But the Tlascalans had heard of the arrival of the 
Spaniards upon the coast, of their ships, "armed 
with thunder and clad with wings," of their fearful 
war-horses, and of their weapons of destruction of 
almost supernatural power. They had also heard of 
the violence with which they had assailed the gods 
of the country. The principal lords had already as- 
sembled in debate to decide upon the course to be 
pursued should these formidable strangers approach 
their territory. It was determined to oppose them 


with all the energies of artifice and of force. The 
embassadors were accordingly seized and imprisoned, 
and preparations were made to sacrifice them to 
their gods. They, however, fortunately made their 
escape and returned to Cortez. 

The Spanish chieftain, disappointed but not intim- 
idated by this result, made prompt arrangements to 
force his way through the Tlascalan territory. Wav- 
ing the sacred banner of the Church before his troops, 
he exclaimed, 

"Spaniards! follow boldly the standard of the Holy 
Cross. Through this we shall conquer." 

"On! on!" was the enthusiastic response of the 
soldiers. "In God alone we place our trust." 

The march of a few miles brought them to an ex- 
tended waii of solid masonry, built, like the great 
wall of China, to protect the territory of the Tlasca- 
lans from invasion. Though the entrance gate was so 
constructed that a small army stationed there might 
have made very powerful resistance, for some reason 
the Tlascalan force had been withdrawn. The army 
boldly pressed in, and advanced rapidly, yet using all 
caution to guard against an ambuscade. They had 
not proceeded far, however, before they met a large 
force of the Indians, who attacked them with the ut- 
most fury, and with a degree of military skill and 
discipline which greatly surprised the Spaniards. Two 
of the horses were killed, and several of the Span- 


iards wounded. For a time the situation of the in- 
vaders was very precarious; but Cortez soon brought 
up the artillery, and opened a destructive fire upon 
the unprotected foe. The thunder of the guns, which 
the Tlascalans had never heard before, and the horrid 
carnage of the grape-shot sweeping through their 
ranks, compelled the warlike natives at last, though 
slowly and sullenly, to retire. There was, however, 
no confusion in their retreat. They retired in good 
order, ever presenting a bold front to their pursuers. 
Cortez estimated the number of the enemy engaged 
in this battle at six thousand. 

The retiring Tlascalans took with them or de- 
stroyed all the provisions which the country afforded; 
but, notwithstanding this, "their dogs," one of the 
historians of the expedition records, "which we 
caught when they returned to their habitations at 
night, afforded us a very good supper." 

It was now the end of September. The army of 
Cortez had been gradually increased by recruits from 
among the natives to three thousand. Immediately 
after this first battle with the Tlascalans, the whole 
army was assembled to offer thanks to God for the 
victory, and to implore his continued protection. The 
soldiers, with the fresh blood of the Tlascalans hardly 
washed from their hands, partook of the sacrament of 
the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Ro- 
man Catholic Church. 


The army now marched in close order. The To- 
tonac allies, as well as the Spaniards, were drilled to 
perfect discipline, and all were inspired with intense 
zeal. With characteristic caution Cortez chose every 
night his place of halting, and with great vigilance forti- 
fied his encampment. There was something truly chiv- 
alrous in the magnanimity displayed by these barba- 
rians. They seemed to scorn the idea of taking their 
enemies by surprise, but always sent them fair warn- 
ing when they intended to make an attack. They 
had now the impression that the Spaniards had left 
their own country because it did not furnish sufficient 
food for them. They therefore sent to their camp an 
abundant supply of poultry and corn, saying, "Eat 
plentifully. We disdain to attack a foe enfeebled by 
hunger. It would be an insult to our gods to offer them 
starved victims; neither do we wish to feed on ema- 
ciated bodies." We have before mentioned that it 
was the horrid custom of this people to offer as 
sacrifices to their gods prisoners taken in war, and 
then to banquet in savage orgies over the remains. 

As Cortez moved cautiously on, adopting every 
precaution to guard against surprise, he suddenly 
emerged from a valley upon a wide-spread plain. 
Here he again encountered the enemy, drawn up in 
battle array, in numbers apparently overwhelming. 
It was now evening. As it was understood that the 
Tlascalans never attacked by night, considering it dis- 

M. ofH.— xv— 8 


honorable warfare, the Spaniards pitched their tents, 
having posted sentinels to watch the foe with the ut- 
most vigilance. The morning was to usher in a 
dreadful battle, with fearful odds against the invaders. 
Two chiefs who had been taken prisoners in the late 
battle stated that the force of the Tlascalans consisted 
of five divisions of ten thousand men each. Each di- 
vision had its own uniform and banner, and was un- 
der the command of its appropriate chief. It was a 
solemn hour in the Spanish camp. "When all this 
was communicated to us," says Diaz, "being but 
mortal, and, like all others, fearing death, we prepared 
for battle by confessing to our reverend fathers, who 
were occupied during that whole night in that holy 

Cortez released his captive chiefs, and sent them 
with an amicable message to their countrymen, stat- 
ing that he asked only an unmolested passage through 
their country to Mexico, but sternly declaring, "If 
this proposition be refused, I will enter your capital 
as a conqueror. I will burn every house. I will put 
every inhabitant to the sword." An answer was re- 
turned of the most implacable defiance. "We will 
make peace," said the Tlascalans, "by devouring your 
bodies, and offering your hearts and your blood in 
sacrifice to our gods." 

The morning of the 5th f September dawned 
cloudless and brilliant upon the two armies encamped 


upon the high table-lands of the Cordilleras. At an 
early hour the Spanish bugles roused the sleeping 
host. The wounded men, even, resumed their place 
in the ranks, so great was the peril. Cortez addressed 
a few inspiriting words to the troops, and placed him- 
self at their head. Just as the sun was rising he put 
his army in motion. Soon they arrived in sight of 
the Tlascalans. The interminable host filled a vast 
plain, six miles square, with their thronging multi- 
tudes. The native warriors, in bands skillfully 
posted, were decorated with the highest appliances 
of barbaric pomp. As the experienced eye of Cortez 
ranged over their dense ranks, he estimated their 
numbers at more than one hundred thousand. Their 
weapons were slings, arrows, javelins, clubs, and 
rude wooden swords, sharpened with teeth of flint. 

The moment the Spaniards appeared, the Tlascalans, 
uttering hideous yells, and filling the air with all the 
inconceivable clamor of their military bands, rushed 
upon them like the on-rolling surges of the ocean. 
The first discharge from the native army of stones, 
arrows, and darts was so tremendous as to darken 
the sky like a thick cloud. Notwithstanding the armor 
worn by the Spaniards was impervious to arrow or 
javelin, many were wounded. 

But soon the cannon was unmasked, and opened 
its terrific roar. Ball and grape-shot swept through 
the dense ranks of the natives, mowing down, in 


hideous mutilation, whole platoons at a discharge. 
The courage displayed by the Tlascalans was amazing. 
It has never been surpassed. Though hardly able, 
with their feeble weapons, to injure their adversaries, 
regardless of death, they filled up the gaps which the 
cannon opened in their ranks, and all the day long 
continued the unequal fight. 

Immense multitudes of the dead now covered the 
field, and many of the chiefs were slain. Every horse 
was wounded; seventy Spaniards were severely in- 
jured; one was dead, and nearly all were more or less 
bruised. But the artillery and the musketry were still 
plied with awful carnage. The commander-in-chief 
of the native army, finding it in vain to contend 
against these new and apparently unearthly weapons, 
at last ordered a retreat. The natives retired in as 
highly disciplined array as would have been displayed 
by French or Austrian troops. The victors, exhausted 
and bleeding, were glad to throw themselves upon 
the gory grass of the battle-field for repose. The 
cold wind at night, from the mountain glaciers, swept 
the bleak plain, and the soldiers shivered in their 
houseless beds. They did not sleep, however, until, 
in a body, they had returned thanks to the God of 
peace and love for their glorious victory. "It truly 
seemed," said Cortez, devoutly, "that God fought on 
our side." 

It appears almost incredible that, in such a con- 


diet, the Spanish army should have received so iittle 
injury. But Cortez made no account of any amount 
of loss on the part of his native allies. The Spaniards 
only he thought of, and they were protected with the 
utmost care. Their artillery and musketry kept the 
natives at a distance, and their helmets and coats of 
mail no native weapon could easily penetrate. Their 
danger was consequently so small that we can not 
give them credit for quite so much heroism as they 
have claimed. The enterprise, in its commencement, 
was bold in the extreme; but it is easy to be fearless 
when experience proves that there is but little peril 
to be encountered. They fought one hundred thou- 
sand men for a whole day, and lost one man! 

As night enveloped in its folds the blood stained 
hosts, the untiring Cortez, having buried his dead, 
that his loss might not be perceived by the enemy, 
sallied forth with the horse and a hundred foot, and 
four hundred of the native allies, and with fire and 
sword devastated six villages of a hundred houses 
each, taking four hundred prisoners, including men 
and women. Before daybreak he returned from this 
wild foray to the camp. 

During the night the Tlascalans had been receiving 
re-enforcements, and when the first dawn of morning 
appeared, more than one hundred and forty-nine 
thousand natives, according to the estimate of Cortez, 
made a rush upon the camp. After a battle of four 


hours they were again compelled to retreat. "As we 
carried the banner of the cross," says Cortez, "and 
fought for our faith, God in his glorious providence, 
gave us a great victory." 

Night again came. Again this indomitable man of 
iron sinews marched forth in the darkness, with his 
horse, one hundred Spanish infantry, and a large party 
of his allies, and set three thousand houses in flames, 
encountering no opposition, burning out only the 
women and children and the unarmed inhabitants. 
Cortez treated all the prisoners he took very kindly, 
and liberated them with presents. This humanity 
amazed the natives, who were accustomed to a pro- 
cedure so very different. 

The Tlascalans were now much disheartened, and 
were inclined to peace. But they were quite at a loss 
to know how to approach the terrible foe. After 
much deliberation, they sent an embassage, composed 
of fifty of their most prominent men, bearing rich 
presents. Cortez suspected them of being spies. 
With cruelty, which will ever be an ineffaceable 
stigma upon his name, he ordered them all to be ar- 
rested, and their hands to be cut off. Thus awfully 
mutilated, these unhappy men were sent back to the 
Tlascalan camp with the defiant message, 

"The Tlascalans may come by day or by night; 
the Spaniards are ready for them." 

Cortez himself relates this act of atrocious cruelty. 


Nothing can be said in its extenuation. There was 
even no proof, but only suspicion that they were 
spies. It is, indeed, not at all probable that, if such 
were the intention, fifty of the most prominent men 
of the nation would have been selected. It is, how- 
ever, certain, that after this all farther idea of resist- 
ance was abandoned. The commander-in-chief of the 
Tlascalan army, with a numerous retinue, entered the 
Spanish camp with proffers of submission. This 
brave and proud chieftain, subdued by the terrors of 
the resistless engines of war worked by the Spaniards, 
addressed Cortez in the following language, which 
will command universal respect and sympathy. 

"I loved my country," said he, "and wished to 
preserve its independence. We have been beaten. I 
hope that you will use your victory with moderation, 
and not trample upon our liberties. In the name of 
the nation, I now tender obedience to the Spaniards. 
We will be as faithful in peace as we have been bold 
in war." 

Cortez received this submission with great secret 
satisfaction, for his men, worn down with fatigue, 
were beginning loudly to murmur. A cordial peace 
was soon concluded. The Tlascalans were the in- 
veterate foes of the Mexicans, and had long been 
fighting against them. They yielded themselves as 
vassals to the King of Spain, and engaged to assist 
Cortez in all his enterprises. The two armies, which 


had recently met in such fierce and terrible encounter, 
now mingled together as friends and brothers. In 
one vast united band they marched toward the great 
city of Tlascala, and entered the capital in triumph- 
It was, indeed, a large and magnificent city; more 
populous, and of more imposing architecture, Cortez 
asserts, than the celebrated Moorish capital, Granada, 
in old Spain. An immense throng flocked from the 
gates of the city to meet the troops. The roofs of 
the houses were covered with spectators. Wild mu- 
sic, from semi-barbarian voices and bands, filled the 
air. Plumed warriors hurried to and fro, and shouts 
of welcome seemed to rend the skies, as these hardy 
adventurers slowly defiled through the crowded gates 
and streets of the city. The police regulations were 
extraordinarily effective, repressing all disorder. The 
Spaniards were surprised to find barbers' shops, and 
also baths both for hot and cold water. 

The submission of the Tlascalans was sincere and 
entire. They were convinced that the Spaniards 
were beings of a superior order whom it was in vain 
to resist. Cortez treated the vanquished natives with 
great courtesy and kindness. He took the Tlascalan 
republic under his protection, and promised to defend 
them from every foe. 

The peril of Cortez at this juncture had been very 
great. The difficulty of obtaining sufficient food for 
his army, while ever on the march, called into requi- 


sition his utmost sagacity and exertions. No man of 
ordinary character could have surmounted this diffi- 
culty. Fatigue and exposure had placed many on the 
sick-list, and there were no hospital wagons to con- 
vey them along. Fifty-five Spaniards had died on 
the way. Cortez himself was seriously indisposed. 
Every night one half of the army kept up a vigilant 
watch, while all the rest slept on their arms. And 
Diaz records that they had no salve to dress their 
wounds but what was composed of the fat of the 
Indians whom they had slain. Whenever the enemy 
was defeated, he retired only to reappear in increas- 
ing numbers. Under these circumstances, it is not 
strange that many of the. soldiers had thought of their 
homes, and that loud murmurs had been uttered. 
But this sudden peace dispelled all discontent. In 
the abundance and the repose of the great city of 
Tlascala, all past toil and hardship were forgotten. 

Cortez, in his letter to the emperor, stated that so 
populous was Tlascala, that he presumed as many as 
thirty thousand persons appeared daily in the market- 
place of the city buying and selling. The population 
of the province he estimated at five hundred thousand. 


The March to Mexico. 

Prudence of Cortez. — Enthusiasm of the natives. — Alarm of Montezuma. — The 
embassy to Cortez. — Cortez's answer. — Conversion of the natives. — The 
five maidens. — Cortez declines the gift. — Presentation of the image. — 
The compromise. — Indignation on both sides. — Father Olmedo dissuades 
him from his purpose. — The protest. — The prisons emptied of the vic- 
tims. — Baptism of the brides. — Montezuma invites Cortez to his capital. 

— Zeal of the Tlascalans. — The city of Cholula. — Arrival. — They decline 
admitting the Tlascalans. — Rumors of treachery. — Marina discovers a 
plot. — Cortez resents the treachery of the natives. — The massacre. — De- 
struction of Cholula. — Proclamation offering pardon. — Appointment of 
the new cacique. — Public thanksgivings. — Statement of Mr. Thompson. 

— Cortez resumes his march toward Mexico. — Terror of Montezuma. — 
Cortez's message to the monarch. — His answer. — Appearance of discon- 
tent. — Arrival at Ithualco. — View from the heights. — Cortez resolves to 
continue his march. — Vacillation of Montezuma. — Description of the 
valley of Mexico. — Offers from Montezuma. — Satisfaction of Cortez. — 
His answer. — Arrival at Amaquemecan. — Profuse hospitality. — Ayob- 
zingo. — I^ake Chalco. — Cuitlahuac. — Immense crowd.— They enter Izta- 
palapan. — Appearance of the city. — Reception of Cortez. — The proces- 
sion. — The causeway. — Arrival of the Emperor. — Appearance of Monte- 
zuma. — Meeting of the emperor and the marauder. — Cortez conducted 
to his quarters. — His accommodations. — Size and comfort of the mansion. 

— Vigilance of Cortez. — Presents to Cortez. — The conference.— The tra- 
dition.— Montezuma urged to accept the Christian faith.— The argu- 
ment. — Achievements of the Spaniards. 

Cortez remained in Tlascala twenty days, to 
refresh his troops, and to cement his alliance 
with his new friends. He was all this time 
very diligent in making the most minute inquiries 
respecting the condition of the Mexican empire, and 



in preparing for every emergence which could arise in 
the continuance of his march. Bold as he was, his 
prudence equaled his boldness, and he left nothing 
willingly to the decisions of chance. The Tlascalans 
hated virulently their ancient foes the Mexicans, and 
with that fickleness of character, ever conspicuous 
in the uninformed multitude, became fond even to adu- 
lation of the Spaniards. With great enthusiasm they 
embarked in the enterprise of joining the expedition 
against Montezuma. All the forces of the republic 
were promptly raised, and placed under the command 
of Cortez. 

Montezuma was informed of all these proceedings, 
and was greatly alarmed. He feared that a prophetic 
doom was about to descend upon him, and this ap- 
prehension wilted all his wonted energies. Thus in- 
fluenced, he sent an embassy, consisting of five of the 
most conspicuous nobles of his empire, accompanied 
by a retinue of two hundred attendants, to visit the 
Spanish camp. Men of burden were laden down 
with rich presents for Cortez. The gold alone of the 
gifts was estimated at over fifty thousand dollars. 
Montezuma weakly hoped by these gifts to induce 
Cortez to arrest his steps. The embassadors were 
instructed to urge him, by all possible considera- 
tions, not to attempt to approach the Mexican cap- 

Cortez returned an answer replete with expres- 


sions of Castilian courtesy, but declaring that he must 
obey the commands of his sovereign, which required 
him to visit the metropolis of the great empire. 

But, in the midst of all these cares, Cortez did not 
forget his great mission of converting the natives to 
Christianity. This subject was ever prominent in his 
mind, and immediately upon his entrance into the 
city he commenced, through his interpreters, urging 
the chiefs to abandon their cruel idolatry. He argued 
with them himself, and called into requisition all the 
persuasive eloquence of good Father Olmedo. 

The chiefs brought five maidens, all noble born, 
and of selected beauty. These girls were beautifully 
dressed, and each attended by a slave. Xicotenga, 
the cacique of the nation, presented his own daugh- 
ter to Cortez, and requested him to assign the rest to 
his officers. Cortez firmly, yet courteously declined 
the gift, saying, 

"If you wish that we should intermarry with you, 
you must first renounce your idolatrous worship and 
adore our God. He will then bless you in this life, 
and after death he will receive you to heaven to enjoy 
eternal happiness; but if you persist in the worship 
of your idols, which are devils, you will be drawn 
by them to their infernal pit, there to burn eternally 
in flames of fire." 

He then presented to them "a beauteous image 
of Our Lady, with her precious Son in her arms," 


and attempted to explain to them the mystery of the 
incarnation, and the potency of the mediatorship of 
the Virgin. 

"The God of the Christians," the Tlascalans re- 
plied, "must be great and good, We will give him 
a place with our gods, who are also great and good. 
Our god grants us victory over our enemies. Our 
goddess preserves us from inundations of the river. 
Should we forsake their worship, the most dreadful 
punishment would overwhelm us." 

Cortez could admit of no such compromise; and 
he urged the destruction of the idols with so much 
zeal and importunity, that at last the Tlascalans be- 
came angry, and declared that on no account what- 
ever would they abandon the gods of their fathers. 
Cortez now, in his turn, was roused to virtuous in- 
dignation, and he resolved that, happen what might, 
the true God should be honored by the swift destruc- 
tion of these idols of the heathen. Encouraged by 
the success of his violent measures at Zempoalla, he 
was on the point of ordering the soldiers to make an 
onslaught on the gods of the Tlascalans, which would 
probably have so roused the warlike and exasperated 
natives as to have led to the entire destruction of his 
army in the narrow streets of the thronged capital, 
when the judicious and kind-hearted Father Olmedo 
dissuaded him from the rash enterprise. With true 
Christian philosophy, he plead that forced conversion 


was no conversion at all; that God's reign was only 
over willing minds and in the heart*. " g/'ligion," 
said this truly good man, "can not be propagated 
by the sword. Patient instruction must enlighten the 
understanding, and pious example captivate the affec- 
tions, before men can be induced to abandon error 
and embrace the truth." It is truly refreshing to 
meet with these noble ideas of toleration spoken by 
a Spanish monk in that dark age. Let such a fact 
promote, not indifference to true and undefiled reli- 
gion, but a generous charity.* 

Cortez reluctantly yielded to these remonstrances 
of an ecclesiastic whose wisdom and virtue he was 
compelled to respect. The manifest pressure of cir- 
cumstances also undoubtedly had their influence. But 
this ardent reformer could not yield without entering 
his protest. 

"We can not," he said, "I admit, change the 
heart, but we can demolish these abominable idols, 
clamoring for their hecatombs of human victims, and 
we can introduce in their stead the blessed Virgin 
and her blessed child. Will not this be a humane 

* " When Reverend Father Olmedo, who was a wise and good 
theologian, heard this, being averse to forced conversions, notwith- 
standing it had been done in Zempoalla, he advised Cortez to urge 
it no further at present. He also observed that the destruction of their 
idols was a fruitless violence if the principle was not eradicated from 
their minds by arguments, as they would find other idols to continue 
their worship to elsewhere." 


change? And, because we can not do the whole, 
shall we refuse to do a part?" 

Upon one point, however, Cortez was inflexible, 
and to this the Tlascalans, by way of compromise, 
assented. He insisted that the prisons should be 
entirely emptied of victims destined for sacrifice. 
There were in the temples many poor wretches fat- 
tening for these horrid orgies. A promise was also 
exacted from the Tlascalans that they would hereafter 
desist from these heathen practices; but no sooner 
had the tramp of the Spaniards ceased to echo through 
the streets of Tlascala, than the prisons were again 
filled with victims, and human blood, in new torrents, 
crimsoned their altars. 

One of the temples was also cleared out, and an 
altar being erected, it was converted into a Christian 
church. Here the young ladies destined as brides for 
the Spanish soldiers were baptized, their friends pre- 
senting no objections. The daughter of Xicotenga 
received the Christian name of Louisa. Cortez took 
her by the hand, and gracefully presented her to one 
of his captains, Alvarado, telling her father that that 
officer was his brother. The cacique expressed entire 
satisfaction at this arrangement. All were baptized 
and received Christian names. Many of the descend- 
ants of this beautiful and amiable Indian maiden may 
now be found among the grandees of Spain. 

Montezuma, on the return of his embassadors, 


finding that no argument could dissuade Cortez, and 
fearing by opposition to provoke the hostility of an 
enemy who wielded such supernatural thunders, now 
decided to change his policy, and by cordiality to 
endeavor to win his friendship. He accordingly sent 
another embassy, with still richer presents, inviting 
Cortez to his capital, and assuring him of a warm wel- 
come. He entreated him, however, not to enter into 
any alliance with the Tlascalans, the most fierce and 
unrelenting foes of the Mexican empire. 

The time had now arrived for Cortez to resume 
his march. The zeal of the Tlascalans to accompany 
him was so great that, according to his representation, 
he might have taken with him one hundred thousand 
volunteers. He, however, considered this force too 
unwieldy, and accepted of but six thousand picked 
troops. This, however, was a strong re-enforcement, 
and Cortez now rode proudly at the head of a regu- 
lar army which could bid defiance to all opposition. 

Eighteen miles from Tlascala was situated the city 
of Cholula, and this city was but sixty-four miles east 
of the renowned Mexican metropolis. Cholula was a 
city whose population was estimated at one hundred 
thousand. As it belonged to Mexico, the bitterest 
animosity existed between its inhabitants and those 
of Tlascala. Cortez was warned by his new allies 
not to enter the city, as he might depend upon en- 
countering treachery there; but the Spanish general 


considered himself now too strong to turn aside from 
any danger. 

As the Spanish army approached the city, a pro- 
cession came out to meet them, with banners, and 
bands of music, and censers smoking with incense. 
Numerous nobles and priests headed the procession. 
They received Cortez and the Zempoallans with every 
demonstration of friendship, but declined admitting 
their inveterate enemies, the Tlascalans, within their 
walls. Cortez accordingly ordered these allies to en- 
camp upon the plain before the city, while he, with 
the rest of the army, marched with great military 
pomp into the metropolis, which was resounding with 

He found a beautiful city, with wide, neatly-ar- 
ranged streets and handsome dwellings. It was the 
sacred city of the Mexicans. Many gorgeous temples 
lined the streets, and one of extraordinary grandeur 
was the most renowned sanctuary of the empire. It 
is alleged by some, and denied by others, that the 
Mexicans had invited the Spaniards into the holy city, 
hoping by the aid of the gods to effect their entire 
destruction. The Tlascalans, who were encamped 
outside of the city, affirmed that the women and chil- 
dren of the principal inhabitants were leaving the city 
by night. They also declared that a large body of 
Mexican troops were concealed near the town. Two 
of the Tlascalans, who had entered the city in dis- 

M. of H.— XV— 9 


guise, declared that some of the streets were barri- 
caded, and that others were undermined, and but 
slightly covered over, as traps for the horses. They 
also reported that six children had recently been 
sacrificed in the chief temple, which was a certain 
indication that some great military enterprise was on 
foot. Cortez, however, did not place much reliance 
upon this testimony from the Tlascalans. He was 
well aware that they would be glad, in any way, to 
bring down destruction on Cholula. 

But more reliable testimony came from the amiable 
Marina. She had won the love of one of the noble 
ladies of the city. This woman, wishing to save Marina 
from destruction, informed her that a plot was in prog- 
ress for the inevitable ruin of her friends. According 
to her account, deep pits were dug and concealed in 
the streets, stones carried to the tops of the houses 
and the temples, and that Mexican troops were se- 
cretly drawing near. The fatal hour was at hand, 
and escape impossible. 

The energy of Cortez was now roused. Quietly 
he drew up the Spanish and Zempoallan troops, armed 
to the teeth, in the heart of the city. He sent a 
secret order to the Tlascalans to approach, and, at a 
given signal, to fall upon the surprised and unarmed 
Cholulans, and cut them down without mercy. He 
then, upon a friendly pretext, sent for the magistrates 
of the city and all the principal nobles. They were 


immediately assembled, and the signal for massacre 
was given. 

The poor natives, taken entirely by surprise, rushed 
in dismay this way and that, encountering death at 
every corner. The Tlascalans, like hungry wolves, 
swept through the streets, glutting themselves with 
blood. It was with them the carnival of insatiable 
revenge. The dwellings were sacked piteously, and 
the city every where kindled into flame. Women 
and children were seized by the merciless Tlascalans 
to grace their triumph, and to bleed upon their altars 
of human sacrifice. For two days this horrid scene 
continued. At last, from exhaustion, the carnage 
ceased. The city was reduced to smouldering ruins, 
and pools of blood and mutilated carcases polluted the 
streets. The wail of the wretched survivors, homeless 
and friendless, rose to the ear of Heaven more dismal 
than the piercing shriek of anguish which is silenced 
by death. The argument with which Cortez defends 
this outrage is very laconic: 

"Had I not done this to them, they would have 
done the same to me." 

Such is war — congenial employment only for 
fiends. It is Satan's work, and can be efficiently 
prosecuted only by Satan's instruments. Six thousand 
Cholulans were slain in this awful massacre. The 
Spaniards were now sufficiently avenged. Cortez is- 
sued a proclamation offering pardon to all who 


had escaped the massacre, and inviting them to return 
to their smouldering homes. Slowly they returned, 
women and children, from the mountains where they 
had fled, some, who feigned death, crept from beneath 
the bodies of the slain, and others emerged from 
hiding-places in their devastated dwellings. The 
cacique of the Cholulans had been killed in the general 
slaughter. Cortez appointed a brother of the late 
cacique to rule over the city, and, in apparently a 
sincere proclamation, informed the bereaved and mis- 
erable survivors that it was with the greatest sorrow 
that he had found himself compelled by their treachery 
to this terrible punishment. The Tlascalans, glutted 
with the blood of their ancient foes, were compelled 
to surrender all their prisoners, for Cortez would allow 
of no human sacrifices. 

Cortez thought that the natives were now in a 
very suitable frame of mind for his peculiar kind of 
conversion. They were truly very pliant. No resist- 
ance was offered to the Spanish soldiers as they tum- 
bled the idols out of the temples, and reared in their 
stead the cross and the image of the Virgin. Public 
thanksgivings were then offered to God in the purified 
temples of the heathen for the victory he had vouch- 
safed, and mass was celebrated by the whole army. 

In the year 1842, Hon. Waddy Thompson passed 
over the plain where once stood the city of Cholula. 
He thus describes it: 


" The great city of Cholula was situated about six 
miles from the present city of Puebla. It was here 
the terrible slaughter was committed which has left 
the deepest stain upon the otherwise glorious and 
wonderful character of Cortez. Not a vestige — liter- 
ally not one — not a brick or a stone standing upon 
another, remains of this immense city except the great 
pyramid, which still stands in gloomy and solitary 
grandeur in the vast plain which surrounds it, and 
there it will stand forever. This pyramid is built of 
unburned bricks. Its dimensions, as given by Hum- 
boldt, are, base, 1440 feet; present height, 177; area 
on the summit, 45,210 square feet. A Catholic chapel 
now crowns the summit of this immense mound, the 
sides of which are covered with grass and small trees. 
As seen for miles along the road, an artificial moun- 
tain, standing in the solitude of a vast plain, it is a 
most imposing and beautiful object." 

After the delay of a fortnight, Cortez resumed his 
march toward the capital of Mexico, which was now 
distant from him but twenty leagues. It was now 
the 29th of October. The tidings of the horrible ret- 
ribution which had fallen upon Cholula spread far 
and wide, and it accomplished its end in preventing 
any farther manifestations of hostility. City after city, 
appalled by this exhibition of the vengeance of those 
foes who wielded the thunder and the lightning of 


heaven, and who, with the dreadful war-horse, could 
overtake the swiftest foe, sent in the most humble 
messages of submission, with accompanying presents, 
to propitiate the favor of the terrible invaders. 

Montezuma, as he was informed of the fate of 
Cholula, turned pale upon his throne, and trembled 
in every fiber. He dreaded unspeakably to have the 
Spaniards enter his capital, and yet he dared not un- 
dertake to oppose them. Cortez sent embassadors 
before him to the capital with the following message 
to Montezuma. 

"The Cholulans have asserted that Montezuma in- 
stigated their treachery. I will not believe it. Mon- 
tezuma is a great and a powerful sovereign; he 
would make war in the open field, and not by cow- 
ardly stratagem. The Spaniards, however, are ready 
for any warfare, secret or open." 

This was bold defiance. Montezuma supersti- 
tiously read in it the decree of fate announcing his 
doom. He returned an answer solemnly declaring 
that he had no part in the guilt of the Cholulans, and 
renewedly inviting Cortez to visit his city. 

The country through which the adventurers passed 
became increasingly populous, luxuriant, and beauti- 
ful. They were continually met by embassies from 
the different cities on or near their route, endeavoring 


to propitiate their favor by protestations of allegiance 
and gifts of gold. They also perceived many indica- 
tions of discontent with the reign of Montezuma, 
which encouraged Cortez greatly in his expectation 
of being able to overturn the empire, by availing 
himself of the alienation existing in its constituent 
parts. Multitudes of the disaffected joined the army 
of Cortez, where they were all warmly welcomed. 
"Thus," says Clavigero, "the farther the Spaniards 
advanced into the country, the more they continued 
to increase their forces; like a rivulet which, by the 
accession of other streams, swells in its course into a 
large river." 

For several days they toiled resolutely along, 
"recommending," says Diaz, "our souls to the Lord 
Jesus Christ, who had brought us through our past 
dangers," until, from the heights of Ithualco, they 
looked down over the majestic, the enchanting valley 
of Mexico. A more perfectly lovely scene has rarely 
greeted human eyes. In the far distance could be 
discerned, through the transparent atmosphere, the 
dim blue outline of the mountains by which the al- 
most boundless basin of Mexico was girdled. Forests 
and rivers, orchards and lakes, cultivated fields and 
beautiful villages adorned the landscape. The mag- 
nificent city of Mexico was situated, in queenly splen- 
dor, upon islands in the bosom of a series of lakes 
more than a hundred miles in length. Innumerable 


towns, with their lofty temples, and white, picturesque 
dwellings, fringed the margin of the crystal waters. 
The circumference of the valley girdled by the moun- 
tains was nearly two hundred miles. 

The Spaniards gazed upon the enchanting scene 
with amazement, and many of them with alarm. 
They saw indications of civilization and of power far 
beyond what they had anticipated. Cortez, however,, 
relying upon the efficiency of gunpowder, and also 
deeming himself invincible while the sacred banner of 
the cross waved over his army, marched boldly on. 
The love of plunder was a latent motive omnipotent 
in his soul, and he saw undreamed of wealth lavishly 
spread before him. Though Cortez was, at this period 
of his life, a stranger to the sordid vice of avarice, he 
coveted intensely boundless wealth, to be profusely 
distributed in advancing his great plans.* 

*Hon. Waddy Thompson thus describes the appearance of the 
great valley of Mexico at the present time. "The road passes within 
about twenty miles of the mountain of Popocatepetl, the highest 
point of the territory of Mexico; but the brightness of the atmosphere, 
and a tropical sun shining upon the snow with which it is always 
covered, makes the distance seem very much shorter — not, indeed, 
more than one or two miles. In descending the mountain, at about 
the distance of twenty-five miles the first glimpse is caught of the 
city and valley of Mexico. No description can convey to the reader 
any adequate idea of the effect upon one who, for the first time, be- 
holds that magnificent prospect. With what feelings must Cortez 
have regarded it when he first saw it from the top of the mountain 
between the snow-covered volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, 
a short distance to the left of where the road now runs! The valley 


Montezuma was continually vacillating as to the 
course to be pursued. At one hour he would resolve 
to marshal his armies, and fall, if fall he must, glori- 
ously, amid the ruins of his empire. The next hour 
timidity would be in the ascendant, and a new em- 
bassy would be sent to Cortez, with courteous 
speeches and costly gifts. The unhappy monarch, in 
his despair, had gone to one of the most sacred of 
the sanctuaries of the empire to mourn and to pray. 
Here he passed eight days in the performance of all 
the humiliating and penitential rites of his religion. 
But each day Cortez drew nearer, and the crowds 
accumulating around him increased. 

The spirit of Montezuma was now so crushed that 
he sent an embassy to Cortez offering him four loads of 
gold for himself, and one for each of his captains, and 
he also promised to pay a yearly tribute to the King 
of Spain, if the dreaded conqueror would turn back. 
This messenger met the Spanish army upon the 
heights of Ithualco, as they were gazing with admira- 
tion upon the goodly land spread out before them. 
Cortez listened with much secret satisfaction to this 
messenger, as an indication of the weakness and the 
fear of the great monarch. Returning the laconic 

was not then, as it is now, for the greater part a barren waste, but 
was studded all over with the homes of men, containing more than 
forty cities, besides towns and villages without number. Never has 
such a vision burst upon the eyes of mortal man since that upon 
which the seer of old looked down from Pisgah," 


answer, "I must see Montezuma, and deliver to him 
personally the message of the emperor my master," 
he more eagerly pressed on his way. 

Montezuma received this response as the doom 
decreed to him by fate. "Of what avail," the un- 
happy monarch is reported to have, said, "is resist- 
ance, when the gods have declared themselves against 
us ? Yet I mourn most for the old and infirm, the 
women and children, too feeble to fight or to fly. 
For myself and the brave men around me, we must 
bare our breasts to the storm, and meet it as we 

The Spaniards had now arrived at the city of 
Amaquemecan. They were received by the principal 
inhabitants of the place with an ostentatious display 
of courtesy and friendship. Two very large stone 
buildings were provided for their accommodation. 
This profuse hospitality was excited by terror. After 
resting here two days, Cortez resumed his march. 
Their path still led through smiling villages and fields 
of maize, and through gardens blooming with gor- 
geous flowers, which the natives cultivated with reli- 
gious and almost passionate devotion. 

At last they arrived at Ayotzingo — the Venice of 
the New World — an important town, built on wooden 
piles in the waters of Lake Chalco. Gondolas of every 
variety of color, and of graceful structure, glided 
through the liquid streets. The main body of the 


Spanish army encamped outside of the city. A vast 
concourse of the natives flocked to the camp. Cortez 
became suspicious of premeditated treachery, and 
fifteen or twenty of the natives were heartlessly shot 
down, as an intimidation. The terrified Indians did 
not venture to resent this cruel requital of their hos- 

After remaining here two days, the march was 
again resumed along the southern shores of Lake 
Chalco. Clusters of villages, embowered in luxuriant 
foliage, and crimson with flowers, fringed the lake. 
The waters were covered with the light boats of the 
natives, gliding in every direction. At last they came 
to a narrow dike or causeway, five miles long, and 
so narrow that but two or three horsemen could ride 
abreast. In the middle of this causeway, which sep- 
arated Lake Chalco from Lake Xochicalco, was built 
the town of Cuitlahuac, which Cortez described as 
the most beautiful he had yet seen. Before the man- 
sions of the principal inhabitants there were lawns 
ornamented with trees and shrubbery. Temples and 
lofty towers rose in much majesty of architecture. 
Floating gardens were constructed on the lake, and 
innumerable boats, plied by the strong arms of the 
native rowers, almost covered the placid waters. As 
the Spaniards marched along this narrow causeway, 
the crowd became so immense that Cortez was 
obliged to resort to threats of violence to force his 


way. The place was so very favorable for the na- 
tives to make an assault, that Cortez conducted the 
march with the utmost possible vigilance, and com- 
manded the Indians not to come near his ranks un- 
less they chose to be regarded as enemies. The 
adventurers were, however, received in Cuitlahuac 
with the utmost kindness, and all their wants were 
abundantly supplied. 

When they had crossed the narrow causeway, 
and had arrived on the other side of the lake, they 
entered the city of Iztapalapan, which contained, ac- 
cording to their estimate, about fifteen thousand 
houses. The city was in the near vicinity of the 
capital. The natives, with refinement and taste not 
yet equaled by the money-making millions of North 
America, had allotted land in the center of the city 
for a vast public garden, blooming with flowers of 
every variety of splendor. A large aviary was filled 
with birds of gorgeous plumage and sweet song. A 
stone reservoir, of ample dimensions, contained water 
to irrigate the grounds, and it was also abundantly 
stored with fish. Many of the chiefs of the neighbor- 
ing cities had assembled here to meet Cortez. They 
received him with courtesy, with hospitality, but with 
reserve. He was now but a few miles from the re- 
nowned metropolis of Montezuma, and the turrets of 
the lofty temples of idolatry which embellished the 
capital glittered in the sunlight before him. 


Another night passed away, and, as another morn- 
ing dawned, the Spanish army was again on the 
march. It was the 8th of November, 15 19. When 
they drew near the city, they were first met by a 
procession of a thousand of the principal inhabitants, 
adorned with waving plumes, and clad in finely-em- 
broidered mantles. They announced that their re- 
nowned Emperor Montezuma was advancing to 
welcome the strangers. They were now upon the 
causeway which led from the main land to the island 
city. The long and narrow way was thronged with 
crowds which could not be numbered, while on each 
side the lake was darkened with boats. Soon the 
glittering train of the emperor appeared in the dis- 

Montezuma was accompanied by the highest pos- 
sible pomp of semi-barbarian etiquette and splendor. 
He was seated in a gorgeous palanquin, waving with 
plumes and glittering with gold, and was borne on 
the shoulders of four noblemen. Three officers, each 
holding a golden rod, walked before him. Others 
supported over his head, by four posts, to shelter 
him from the sun, a canopy of beautiful workman- 
ship, richly embellished with green feathers, and gold, 
and precious gems. The monarch wore upon his 
head a golden crown, surmounted by a rich head- 
dress of plumes. A mantle, richly embroidered with 
the most costly ornaments, was folded gracefully upon 


his shoulders. Buskins, fringed with gold, fitted 
closely to his legs, and the soles of his shoes were 
of gold. He was tall, well formed, and a peculiarly 
handsome man. 

As the monarch drew near, Cortez dismounted, 
and advanced on foot to meet him. At the same 
time Montezuma alighted from his palanquin, and, 
leaning upon the arms of two of the highest mem- 
bers of his court, with great dignity approached his 
dreaded guest. His attendants in the mean time 
spread before their monarch rich carpets, that his 
sacred feet might not come in contact with the 
ground. An expression of anxiety and of deep mel- 
ancholy overspread the countenance of the sovereign. 

The Mexican emperor and the Spanish marauder 
met in the interchange of all Mexican and Castilian 
courtesies. After the exchange of a few words, the 
whole blended cortege marched through the immense 
crowd, which opened before them, and entered the 
imperial city. "Who," exclaims Diaz, "could count 
the number of men, women, and children which 
thronged the streets, the canals, and terraces on the 
tops of the houses on that day ? The whole of what 
I saw on this occasion is so strongly imprinted on 
my memory that it appears to me as if it had hap- 
pened only yesterday. Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who gave us courage to venture upon such dangers, 
and brought us safely through them." 


Montezuma himself conducted Cortez to the quar- 
ters which he had prepared for his reception in the 
heart of the metropolis. With refinement of politeness 
which would have done honor to the court of Louis 
XIV., he said, on retiring, 

"You are now, with your brothers, in your own 
house. Refresh yourselves after your fatigue, and be 
happy until I return." 

The spot assigned to the Spaniards was an im- 
mense palace, or, rather, range of mansions, in the 
very center of the metropolis, erected by the father 
of Montezuma. The buildings inclosed an immense 
court-yard. The whole was surrounded by a «trong 
stone wall, surmounted with towers for defense 
and ornament. Cortez could not have constructed 
for himself a more admirable citadel for the accom- 
plishment of his ambitious and violent purposes. 
The apartment assigned to the Spanish chieftain was 
tapestried with the finest embroidered cotton. The 
rooms and courts were so large as to afford ample 
accommodations for the whole Spanish army. 

"This edifice was so large," writes one of the his- 
torians of that day, "that both the Spaniards and 
their allies, who, together with the women and the 
servants whom they brought with them, exceeded 
seven thousand in number, were lodged in it. Every 
where there was the greatest cleanliness and neatness. 
Almost all the chambers had beds of mats, of rushes, 


and of palm, according to the custom of the people, 
and other mats, in a round form, for pillows. They 
had coverlets of fine cotton, and chairs made of sin- 
gle pieces of wood. Some of the chambers were 
also carpeted with mats, and the walls were hung 
with tapestry beautifully colored." 

Cortez, with vigilance which never slept, immedi- 
ately fortified his quarters, so as to guard against any 
possible surprise. Artillery was planted to sweep 
every avenue. Sentinels were posted at important 
points, with orders to observe the diligence by night 
and by day as if they were in the midst of hostile 
armies. A large division of the troops was always 
on guard, prepared for every possible emergency. 

In the evening, Montezuma returned with great 
pomp, to visit his terrible guests, and to inquire if 
they were provided with every thing which could 
promote their comfort. He brought with him pres- 
ents of great value for Cortez and his officers, and 
also for each one of the privates in the Spanish camp. 
A long conference ensued, during which Montezuma 
betrayed his apprehension that the Spaniards were 
the conquerors indicated by tradition and prophecy as 
decreed to overthrow the Mexican power. Cortez 
artfully endeavored to frame his reply so as to en- 
courage this illusion. He expatiated at great length 
upon the wealth and the resistless power of the em- 
peror whom he served. "My master wishes," said 


he, "to alter certain laws and customs in this king- 
dom, and particularly to present to you a religion far 
superior to the bloody creed of Mexico." He then, 
with great earnestness, unfolded to the respectful mon- 
arch the principal doctrines of Christianity — the one 
living and true God — the advent of the Savior, his 
atonement, and salvation through faith in him — the 
rites of baptism and of the Lord's Supper — the eter- 
nal rewards of the righteous, and the unending woes 
of the wicked. To these remarks Cortez added an 
indignant remonstrance against the abomination of 
human sacrifices, and of eating the flesh of the 
wretched victims. By way of application to this ser- 
mon, which was truthful in its main sentiments, and 
unquestionably sincere, this most singular of mission- 
aries called out the artillery. We would not speak 
lightly of sacred things in stating the fact that Cortez 
considered gunpowder as one of the most important 
of the means of grace. He judged that the thunder 
of his cannon, reverberating through the streets of the 
astounded capital, would exert a salutary influence 
upon the minds of the natives, and produce that pli- 
ancy of spirit, that child-like humility, so essential 
both to voluntary and involuntary conversion. The 
most important truth and the most revolting falsehood 
here bewilderingly meet and blend. 

The sun had now gone down, and the short twi- 
light was fading away into the darkness of the night, 

M. ofH.— XV— 10 


when, at a given signal, every cannon was discharged. 
The awful roar rolled through the streets of the me- 
tropolis, and froze the hearts of the people with 
terror. Were these strange beings, they inquired 
among themselves, who thus wielded the heaviest 
thunders of heaven, gods or demons ? Volley after 
volley, in appalling peals, burst from the city, and 
resounded over the silent lake. Dense volumes of 
suffocating smoke, scarcely moved by the tranquil air, 
settled down upon the streets. Silence ensued. The 
voice of Cortez had been heard in tones never to be 
forgotten. The stars came out in the serene sky, and 
a brilliant tropical night enveloped in its folds the 
fearless Spaniard and the trembling Mexican. 

It was the night of the 8th of November. But 
seven months had elapsed since the Spaniards landed 
in the country. The whole Spanish force, exclusive 
of the natives whom they had induced to join them, 
consisted of but four hundred and fifty men. They 
were now two hundred miles from the coast, in the 
very heart of an empire numbering many millions, 
and by sagacity, courage, and cruelty, they had suc- 
ceeded in bringing both monarch and people into 
almost entire submission to their sway. The genius 
of romance can narrate few tales more marvelous. 


The Metropolis Invaded. 

The ride through Tenochtitlan. — Visit to the market-place. — The pyramidal 
temple. — View from the summit. — The gong. — Indignation of Cortez. — 
The chapel. — General appearance of the city. — Cortez determines to seize 
Montezuma. — The pretext. — Engagement at Vera Cruz. — Cortez de- 
mands atonement. — Montezuma conveyed to the Spanish quarters. — The 
body-guard. — Qualpopoca arrested. — Condemned to be burned alive. — 
Atrocious insult to Montezuma. — Execution of the victims. — Cortez the 
emperor. — The Spanish commission.— Contributions exacted.— Discon- 
tent of the soldiers. — Building of the brigantines — Indignation of Caca- 
matzin.— His arrest and imprisonment. — Acknowledgment of vassalage. 

— Indignation of the nobles. — Cortez determines to overthrow the system 
of idolatry. — Opposition. — Indications of trouble. — Hardships endured. 

— Alarming intelligence. — An armament sent after Cortez. — Surrender 
of Vera Cruz demanded. — The envoy sent to Cortez. — Montezuma elated. 

— Preparations for war. — Terms of accommodation. — Cortez marches on 
Narvaez. — The storm. — Narvaez's army seeks shelter. — The harangue 
and the attack. — Narvaez made prisoner. — The surrender. — The artful- 
ness of Cortez. — The insurrection in the metropolis. — Disaffection of the 
inhabitants. — They arrive at the causeway. — Cause of the insurrection. — 
Displeasure of Cortez. — His insolent manner. — Diaz's record. — Motives 
for the attack. — The massacre intended to prevent insurrection. 

The next morning, Cortez, with a showy retinue 
of horsemen, prancing through streets upon 
which hoof had never before trodden, called 
upon the emperor. The streets were lined, and the 
roofs of the houses crowded with multitudes gazing 
upon the. amazing spectacle. The Spanish chieftain 



was kindly received by the emperor, and three days 
were appointed to introduce him to all the objects of 
interest in the capital. Tenochtitlan was the na- 
tive name by which the imperial city was then 

They first visited the great public square or market- 
place. An immense concourse was here assembled, 
engaged in peaceful traffic. Three judges sat in state 
at the end of the square, to settle all difficulties. A 
numerous body of police, ever moving through the 
crowd, prevented all riot or confusion. Though there 
were many other minor market-places scattered through 
the city, this was the principal one. 

Cortez then expressed the wish that he might be 
conducted to the great pyramidal temple, which 
reared its lofty structure from the heart of the city. 
The summit of the pyramid was an extended plain, 
where several hundred priests could officiate in sacri- 
fice. The corners of the area were ornamented with 
towers. One hundred and fourteen steps led to the 
summit of the temple. Several large altars stood 
here, besmeared with the blood of human sacrifices, 
and there was also a hideous image of a dragon pol- 
luted with gore. 

From this towering eminence the whole adjacent 
country lay spread out before the eye of Cortez in 
surpassing loveliness. Gardens, groves, villages, wav- 
ing fields of grain, and the wide expanse of the placid 


xakes, covered with boats gliding rapidly over the 
mirrored waters, presented a scene of beauty which 
excited the enthusiasm of Cortez to the highest pitch. 
They then entered the sanctuaries of the temple, 
where human hearts were smoking, and almost 
throbbing, upon the altars before the revolting im- 
ages of their gods. On the summit of the temple 
there was an enormous drum or gong, which was 
struck when the miserable victim was shrieking be- 
neath the knife of sacrifice. Its doleful tones, it was 
said, floating over the still waters of the lake, could 
be heard at the distance of many miles. 

From these sickening scenes Cortez turned away 
in disgust, and exclaimed indignantly to Monte- 

"How can you, wise and powerful as you are, 
put trust in such representatives o r the devil ? Why 
do you allow your people to be butchered before 
these abominable idols ? Let me place here the cross, 
and the image of the blessed Virgin and of her Son, 
and the influence of these detestable idols will soon 

Montezuma, shocked by words which he deemed 
so blasphemous, and dreading the swift vengeance of 
the gods, hurried his irreverent guest away. 

"Go," said he, "go hence, I entreat you, while I 
remain to appease, if possible, the wrath of the gods 
whom you have so dreadfully provoked." 


But these scenes aroused anew the religious zeal 
of Cortez and his companions. As they returned to 
their lodgings, they immediately converted one of the 
halls of their residence into a Christian chapel. Here 
the rites of the Roman Catholic Church were intro- 
duced, and the whole army of Cortez, with soldierly 
devotion, attended mass every day. Good Father 
Olmedo, with perhaps a clouded intellect, but with 
that recognition of the universal brotherhood of man 
which sincere piety ever confers, prayed fervently for 
God's blessing upon his frail children of every name 
and nation. 

The Spaniards estimated the population of the city 
at about five hundred thousand. The streets were 
very regularly laid out at right angles. Many of them 
were wide, and lined with shade-trees. The houses 
of the common people were small but comfortable 
cottages, built of reeds or of bricks baked in the sun. 
The dwellings of the nobles and of the more wealthy 
inhabitants were strongly-built mansions of stone, 
very extensive on the ground floor, though gener- 
ally but one story high. They were inclosed in 
gardens blooming with flowers. Fountains of cool 
water, conveyed through earthen pipes, played in 
the court-yards. The police regulations were unsur- 
passed by those of any city in Europe. A thou- 
sand persons were continually employed in sweeping 
and watering the streets. So clean were the well- 


cemented pavements kept, that "a man could walk 
through the streets," says one of the Spanish histo- 
rians, "with as little danger of soiling his feet as his 

Day after day was passed in the interchange of 
visits, and in the careful examination by Cortez of the 
strength and the resources of the city. He had now 
been a week in the capital, and the question naturally 
arose, What is next to be done ? He was, indeed, 
perplexed to decide this question. Montezuma treated 
him with such extraordinary hospitality, supplying all 
his wants, and leaving him at perfect liberty, that it 
was difficult for one, who laid any claim whatever to 
a conscience, to find occasion to pick a quarrel. To 
remain inactive, merely enjoying the luxury of a most 
hospitable entertainment, was not only accomplishing 
nothing, but was also enervating the army. It was 
also to be apprehended that the Mexicans would grad- 
ually regain their courage as they counted the small 
number of the invaders, and fall upon them with re- 
sistless power. 

The Tlascalans, who had rioted in blood at Cholula, 
seemed anxious for a renewal of that scene of awful 
butchery in the streets of Mexico. They assured Cor- 
tez that he had every thing to fear from the treachery 
of Montezuma; that he had lured them into the city 
but to inclose them in a trap; that the drawbridges 
of the causeways need but be removed, and escape 


for the Spaniards would be impossible. They assured 
him that the Mexican priests had counseled Monte- 
zuma, in the name of the gods, to admit the strangers 
into the capital that he might cut them off at a blow. 
It was obvious, even to the meanest soldier, that all 
this might be true, and that they were in reality in a 
trap from which it would be exceedingly difficult to 
extricate themselves, should the Mexicans manifest 
any resolute hostility. 

On the east the island city had no connection with 
the main land, and could only be approached over 
the broad waters of the lake by canoes. On the west 
the city was entered by an artificial causeway, built 
of earth and stone, a mile and a half in length, and 
but thirty feet in breadth. A similar causeway on the 
northwest, three miles long, connected the city with 
the main land. There was another causeway on the 
south, six miles long. There were many openings 
along these causeways, through which the waters of 
the lake flowed unimpeded. These openings were 
bridged over by means of timber. The destruction of 
these bridges, which might be accomplished at any 
hour, would render an escape for the Spaniards al- 
most impossible. 

In this dilemma, the bold Spaniard adopted the 
audacious yet characteristic plan of seizing Montezuma, 
who was regarded with almost religious adoration by 
his subjects, and holding him as a hostage. The fal- 


lowing occurrence furnished Cortez with a plausible 
pretext to pick a quarrel. 

We have before mentioned that the Totonacs, 
wishing to escape from the subjection of the Mex- 
icans, had acknowledged themselves vassals of the 
King of Spain. When the officers of Montezuma at- 
tempted, as usual, to collect the taxes, the Totonacs 
refused payment. Force was resorted to, and a con- 
flict arose. The colony at Vera Cruz immediately 
sent some soldiers to aid their allies, headed by Es- 
calente, the commander of the Spanish garrison. In. 
the engagement which ensued, Escalente and seven 
of his men were mortally wounded, one horse was, 
killed, and one Spaniard taken captive, who soon a 
however, died of his wounds. Still the Spaniards, 
with their Totonac allies, were victorious, and repelled 
the Mexicans with much slaughter. The vanquished 
party cut off the head of their unfortunate prisoner,, 
and carried it in triumph to several cities, to show 
that their foes were not invulnerable. 

With alacrity Cortez availed himself of this event. 
He immediately repaired to the palace of Montezuma, 
and, with bitter reproaches, accused him of treacher- 
ously ordering an assault upon the Spaniards who 
had been left at Vera Cruz. Sternly the pitiless Span- 
iard demanded reparation for the loss, and atonement 
for the insult. Montezuma, confounded at this unex- 
pected accusation, earnestly declared that the order 


had not been issued by him, but that the distant offi- 
cer had acted on his own responsibility, without con- 
sulting the sovereign. Ungenerously he added that, 
in proof of his innocence, he would immediately com- 
mand the offending officer, Qualpopoca, and his ac- 
complices, to be brought prisoners to Mexico, and to 
be delivered to Cortez for any punishment which the 
Spaniards might decree. 

Cortez now feigned a relenting mood, and declared 
that he could not himself doubt the word of the em- 
peror, but that something more was requisite to ap- 
pease the rage of his followers. "Nothing," said he, 
"can satisfy them of your sincerity and of your hon- 
orable intentions, unless you will leave your palace, 
and take up your abode in the Spanish quarters. 
This will pacify my men, and they will honor you 
there as becomes a great monarch." 

When Marina interpreted this strange proposal, 
Montezuma was for a moment so struck with amaze- 
ment as to be almost bereft of speech. His cheek 
was flushed with shame and rage, and then the hec- 
tic glow passed away into deadly paleness. His 
ancient spirit was for a moment revived, and he ex- 
claimed, indignantly, 

"When did ever a monarch suffer himself to be 
tamely led to a prison? Even were I willing to de- 
base myself in so vile a manner, would not my peo- 
ple immediately arm themselves to set me freer" 



One of the impetuous attendants of Cortez, as the 
altercation continued, exclaimed, grasping his sword, 

"Why waste time in vain? Let us either seize 
him instantly or stab him to the heart." 

Montezuma, though he did not understand his 
words, observed the threatening voice and the fierce 
gesture, and, turning to the amiable interpretress, 
Marina, inquired what he said. 

"Sire," she replied, with her characteristic mildness 
and tact, "as your subject, I desire your happiness; 
but as the confidante of those men, I know their 
secrets, and am acquainted with their character. If 
you yield to their wishes, you will be treated with all 
the honor due to your royal person; but if you persist 
in your refusal, your life will be in danger." 

Montezuma, reading in these events, as he sup- 
posed, but the decrees of fate, now yielded. He 
called his officers, and informed them of his decision. 
Though they were plunged into utter consternation by 
the intelligence, they did not venture to question his 
will. The imperial palanquin was brought, and the 
humiliated emperor was conveyed, followed by a 
mourning crowd to the Spanish quarters. Montezuma 
endeavored to appease them, and to prevent any act 
of violence, by assuring the people that it was his 
own pleasure to go and reside with his friends. He 
was now so thoroughly convinced of the resistless 
power of the Spaniards, and that he was swept along 


by the decrees of fate, that he dreaded any movement 
of resistance on the part of his people. * 

He was magnificently imprisoned. His own servants 
were permitted to attend him, and he continued to 
administer the government as if he had been in his 
own palace. All the forms of courtly etiquette were 
scrupulously observed in approaching his person. 
Ostensibly to confer upon him greater honor, a body- 
guard of stern Spanish veterans was appointed for his 
protection. This body-guard, with all external dem- 
onstrations of obsequiousness, watched him by night 
and by day, rendering escape impossible. 

This violence, however, was but the beginning of 
the humiliation and anguish imposed upon the un- 
happy monarch. The governor, Qualpopoca, who 
had ventured to resist the Spaniards, was brought a 
captive to the capital, with his son and fifteen of the 
principal officers who had served under him. They 
were immediately surrendered to Cortez, that he 
might determine their crime and their punishment. 
Qualpopoca was put to the torture. He avowed, in 
his intolerable agony, that he had only obeyed the 
orders of his sovereign. Cortez, who wished to im- 
press the Mexicans with the idea that it was the 

*Bernal Diaz says, "It having been decided that we should seize 
the person of the king, we passed the whole of the preceding night in 
praying to our Lord that he would be pleased to guide us, so that 
"what we were going to do should redound to his holy service." 


greatest of all conceivable crimes to cause the death 
of a Spaniard, determined to inflict upon them 
a punishment which should appal every beholder. 
They were all doomed to be burned alive in the great 
market-place of the city. To allow no time for any 
resistance to be organized, they were immediately 
led out for execution. In the royal arsenals there was 
an immense amount of arrows, spears, javelins, and 
other wooden martial weapons, which had been col- 
lected for the defense of the city. These the soldiers 
gathered, thus disarming the population, and heaped 
them up in an immense funeral pile. 

While these atrocities were in preparation, Cortez 
entered the presence of his captive, Montezuma, and 
sternly accused him of being an accomplice in the 
death of the Spaniards. He then pitilessly ordered 
the soldiers who accompanied him to bind upon the 
hands and the feet of the monarch the iron manacles of 
a felon. It was one of the most cruel insults which 
could have been inflicted upon fallen majesty. Mon- 
tezuma was speechless with horror, and his attend- 
ants, who regarded the person of their sovereign 
with religious veneration, v/ailed and wept. The 
shackles being adjusted, Cortez turned abruptly upon 
his heel, leaving the monarch in the endurance of 
this ignominious punishment, and went out to attend 
to the execution of the victims, who were already 
bound to the stake. 


The cruel fires were then kindled. The flames 
crackled, and rose in fierce, devouring billows around 
the sufferers. The stern soldiery stood, with musketry 
and artillery loaded and primed, ready to repel any 
attempts at rescue. Thousands of Mexicans, with no 
time for consideration, gazed with awe upon the ap- 
palling spectacle; and the Indian chieftains, without 
a struggle or an audible groan, were burned to ashes. 
The dreadful execution being terminated, and the 
blood of the Spaniards being thus avenged by the 
degradation of the sovereign and the death of his 
officers, Cortez returned to Montezuma, and ordered 
the fetters to be struck from his limbs. 

Step after step of violence succeeded, until Mon- 
tezuma was humbled to the dust. The featfu! rigor 
with which Cortez had punished even the slightest 
attempt to resist the Spaniards overawed the nation. 
Cortez was now virtually the Emperor of Mexico. 
The general laws and customs of the nation remained 
unchanged; but Cortez issued his commands through 
Montezuma, and the mandates of the imprisoned sov- 
ereign were submissively obeyed. With great skill, 
the Spanish adventurer availed himself of these new 
powers. He sent a Spanish commission, by the au- 
thority and under the protection of Montezuma, to 
explore the empire, to ascertain its strength and its 
weakness, its wealth and its resources. These officers 
went to nearly all the provinces, and, by their arro- 


gant display of power, endeavored to intimidate the 
natives, and to prepare them for entire subjection to 

Mexican officers, whose fidelity Cortez suspected, 
were degraded, and their places supplied by others 
whose influence he had secured. A general contribution 
of gold was exacted throughout the whole Mexican 
territories for the benefit of the conquerors. 

A large sum was thus collected. One fifth of this 
was laid aside for his majesty, the King of Spain. 
Another fifth was claimed by Cortez. The remaining 
portion was so greatly absorbed to defray the innu- 
merable expenses of the expedition, that only about one 
hundred crowns fell to the lot of each soldier. This 
excited discontent so deep and loud that Cortez was 
compelled to attempt to pacify his men by a public 

"He called us together," says Diaz, " and in a 
long set speech, gave us a great many honeyed 
words, which he had an extraordinary facility of do- 
ing, wondering how we could be so solicitous about 
a Tttle paltry gold when the whole country would 
soon be ours, with all its rich mines, wherewith there 
was enough to make us great lords and princes, and 
I know not what." 

Cortez was cautious as well as bold. To prepare 
for a retreat in case of necessity, should the Mexicans 
seize their arms and break down their bridges, he 


wished, without exciting the suspicions of the na- 
tives, to build some vessels which would command 
the lake. He accomplished this with his usual ad- 
dress. In conversation with Montezuma, he gave the 
monarch such glowing accounts of floating palaces, 
which would glide rapidly over the water without 
oars, as to excite the intense curiosity of his captive. 
Montezuma expressed a strong desire to see these 
wonderful fabrics. Cortez, under the pretext of 
gratifying this desire, very obligingly consented to 
build two brigantines. The resources of the em- 
pire were immediately placed at the disposal of 
Cortez. A multitude of men were sent to the forest 
to cut down ship-timber and draw it to the lake. 
Several hundred men of burden were dispatched to 
Vera Cruz to transport naval stores from that place 
to Mexico. Aided by so many strong arms,, the 
Spanish carpenters soon succeeded in constructing 
two vessels, which amused the monarch and his 
people, and which afforded the Spaniards an invalua- 
ble resource in the hour of danger. 

But the insolent bearing of the Spaniards had egw 
become to many quite unendurable. Cacamatzin^ the 
chief of the powerful city of Tezcuco, at the farther 
extremity of the lake, was a nephew of Montezuma. 
He was a bold man, and his indignation, in view of 
the pusillanimity of his uncle, at last overleaped his 
prudence. He began to assemble an army to make 


war upon the Spaniards. The Mexicans began to 
rally around their new leader. The indications were 
alarming to Cortez, and even Montezuma became ap- 
prehensive that he might lose his crown, for it was 
reported that Cacamatzin, regarding his uncle as de- 
graded and a captive, intended to seize the reins of 
empire. Under these circumstances, Cortez and Mon- 
tezuma acted in perfect harmony against their com- 
mon foe. After several unsuccessful stratagems to 
get possession of the person of the bold chieftain, Mon- 
tezuma sent some of his nobles, who secretly seized 
him, and brought him a prisoner to the capital, where 
he was thrust into prison. A partisan of Cortez was 
sent to take the place of Cacamatzin as governor -of 
the province of Tezcuco. Thus the danger was 

Cortez still felt much solicitude concerning the 
judgment of the King of Spain respecting his bold 
assumption of authority. He well knew that Velas- 
quez, the governor of Cuba, whose dominion he had 
so recklessly renounced, would report the proceedings 
to the court at Madrid, sustained by all the influence 
he could command. To conciliate his sovereign, and 
to bribe him to indulgence, he extorted from the 
weeping, spirit-crushed sovereign of Mexico an ac- 
knowledgment of vassalage to the King of Spain. 
This humiliating deed was invested with much im- 
posing pomp. All the nobles and lords were assem- 
M. of H.— xv— 11 


bled in a large hall in the Spanish quarters. The 
poor monarch wept bitterly, and his voice often broke 
with emotion as he tremblingly said, 

"I speak as the gods direct. Our prophets have 
told us that a new race is to come to supplant our 
own. The hour has arrived. The scepter passes 
from my hands by the decrees of fate which no one 
can resist. I now surrender to the King of the East 
my power and allegiance, and promise to pay to him 
an annual tribute." 

A general outburst of amazement and indignation 
from the nobles followed this address. Cortez, appre- 
hensive that he might have proceeded a little too far, 
endeavored to appease the rising agitation by the as- 
surance that his master had no intention to deprive 
Montezuma of his regal power, or to make any inno- 
vations upon the manners and the laws of the Mexi- 
cans. The act of submission and homage was, how- 
ever, executed with all the formalities which Cortez 
saw fit to prescribe. The nobles retired, exasperated 
to the highest degree, and burning with desires for 

Encouraged by these wonderful successes, and by 
the tame submission of the monarch, Cortez resolved 
upon the entire overthrow, by violence if necessary, 
of the whole system of idolatry, and to introduce 


Catholic Christianity in its stead. He had often, with 
the most importunate zeal, urged Montezuma to re- 
nounce his false gods and to embrace the Christian 
faith. But superstition was too firmly enthroned in 
the heart of the Mexican monarch to be easily sup- 
planted. To every thing but this the monarch was 
ready to yield; but every proposition to renounce his 
gods he rejected with horror. Cortez at length firmly 
ordered his soldiers to march to the temples and 
sweep them clean of every vestige of paganism. This 
roused the priests. They seized their arms, and the 
alarm was spread rapidly through the streets of the 
city. Vast multitudes, grasping such weapons as 
they could get, assembled around the temples, resolved 
to brave every peril in defense of their religion. 
Matters assumed an aspect so threatening, that, for the 
first time, Cortez found rt necessary to draw back. 
He contented himself with simply ejecting the gods 
from one of the shrines, and in erecting in their stead 
an image of the Virgin. 

There were now many indications of approaching 
trouble. The natives were greatly provoked, and it 
was evident that they were watching for a favorable 
opportunity to rise against their invaders. Cortez 
practiced the most sleepless vigilance. Diaz speaks 
thus of the hardships he and his comrades endured: 

"During the nine months that we remained in 


Mexico, every man, without any distinction between 
officers and soldiers, slept on his arms, in his quilted 
jacket and gorget. They lay on mats or straw spread 
on the floor, and each was obliged to hold himself as 
alert as if he had been on guard. This became so 
habitual to me, that even now, in my advanced age, 
I always sleep in my clothes, and never in any bed." 

just in this crisis alarming intelligence was re- 
ceived from the commander of the garrison at Vera 
Cruz. One of the ships of the delegation sent to 
Spain, of which we have previously spoken, had, con- 
trary to the orders of Cortez, stopped at Cuba. In 
this way the indignant governor, Velasquez, learned 
that Cortez had renounced all connection with him, 
and had set up an independent colony. His anger 
was roused to the utmost, and he resolved upon sum- 
mary vengeance. It so happened that Velasquez had 
just received from his sovereign the appointment of 
governor for life, and was authorized to prosecute 
discoveries in Mexico with very extensive and exclu- 
sive privileges and powers. 

He immediately fitted out an armament consisting 
of nineteen ships, with eighty horsemen, fourteen 
hundred soldiers, and twenty pieces of cannon. This 
was, in that day, a formidable force. The comman- 
dant, Narvaez, was ordered to seize Cortez and his 
principal officers, and send them in chains to Cuba. 


He was then, in the name of Velasquez, to prosecute 
the discovery and the conquest of the country. 

After a prosperous voyage, the fleet cast anchor in 
the Bay of St. Juan de Ulua, and the soldiers were 
landed. Narvaez then sent a summons to the gov- 
ernor of Vera Cruz to surrender. Sandoval, the com- 
mandant, however, being zealously attached to Cortez, 
seized the envoy and his attendants, and sent them 
in chains to the capital, with intelligence of the im- 
pending peril. Cortez, with his wonted sagacity, 
received them as friends, ordered their chains to be 
struck off, condemned the severity of Sandoval, and 
loaded them with caresses and presents. He thus 
won their confidence, and drew from them all the 
particulars of the force, and the intentions of the ex- 
pedition. Cortez had great cause for alarm when he 
learned that Narvaez was instructed to espouse the 
cause of Montezuma; to assure the Mexican monarch 
that the violence which he had suffered was un- 
authorized by the King of Spain, and that he was 
ready to assist Montezuma and his subjects in repel- 
ling the invaders from the capital. From peril so 
imminent no ordinary man could have extricated him- 
self. Narvaez was already on the march, and the 
natives, enraged against Cortez, were in great num- 
bers ioining the standard of the new-comers. Already 
emissaries from the camp of Narvaez had reached the 
capital, and had communicated to Montezuma, through 


the nobles, intelligence that Narvaez was marching to 
his relief. Montezuma was overjoyed, and his nobles 
were elated with hope, as they secretly collected arms 
and marshaled their forces for battle. 

Cortez immediately dispatched Father Olmedo to 
meet Narvaez to propose terms of accommodation. 
He was fully aware that no such terms as he pro- 
posed could be acceded to; but Olmedo and his at- 
tendants were enjoined, as the main but secret object 
of their mission, to do every thing they could, by 
presents, caresses, promises, and glowing descriptions 
of the greatness of Cortez, his power, and the glory 
opening before him, to induce the officers and soldiers 
of Narvaez to abandon his standard, and range them- 
selves under the banner of Cortez. 

At the same time, Cortez, leaving one hundred 
and fifty men, under Alvarado, to guard the fortified 
camp in the metropolis, set out by forced marches, 
with the rest of his force, to fall anexpectedly upon 
Narvaez. His strength did not exceed two hundred 
and fifty men. In a great emergency like this, the 
natives could not be trusted. As Cortez drew near 
his foe, he found that Narvaez was encamped upon a 
great plain in the vicinity of Zempoalla. A terrible 
tempest arose. Black clouds darkened the sky, and 
the rain fell in floods. The soldiers of Narvaez, 
drenched through and through by the unceasing tor- 
rents, demanded to be led to the shelter of the houses 


in Zempoalla. They deemed it impossible that any 
foe could approach in such a storm; but the storm, 
in all its pitiless fury, was the very re-enforcement 
which Cortez and his men desired. Black midnight 
came, and the careering tempest swept the deluged 
streets of Zempoalla, driving even the sentinels to 
seek shelter. 

• Cortez gathered his little band around him, and 
roused them, by a vigorous harangue, for an imme- 
diate attack. The odds were fearful. Cortez had but 
two hundred and fifty men. Narvaez had fifteen 
hundred, with nineteen pieces of artillery and eighty 
horsemen. Giving the soldiers for their countersign 
the inspiring words, "The Holy Spirit," they rushed 
through the darkness and the raging storm upon the 
unsuspecting foe. They first directed their energies 
for the capture of the artillery. The party who made 
this attack was headed by Pizarro, "an active lad," 
says Diaz, "whose name, however, was at that time 
as little known as that of Peru." The guns were 
seized, after a short and not a very sanguinary strug- 
gle. They then, without a moment's delay, turned 
upon the horsemen. But the sleeping foe was now 
effectually aroused. A short scene of consternation, 
clamor, horror, and blood ensued. The companions 
of Cortez fought with the energies of despair. To 
them, defeat was certain death. The soldiers of Nar- 
vaez were bewildered. Many of them, even before 


the battle, were half disposed to abandon Narvaez 
and join the standard of Cortez, of v/hose renow 
they had heard such glowing accounts. Taken by ». 
midnight surprise, they fought manfully for a time. 
But at length, in the hot and tumultuous fight, a 
spear pierced the cheek of Narvaez, and tore out one 
of his eyes. He was struck down and made a pris- 
oner. This led to an immediate surrender. The 
genius of Cortez had most signally triumphed. Though 
many were wounded in this conflict, but two men 
on the side of Cortez were killed, and fifteen of the 
party of Narvaez. 

The artful conqueror loaded the vanquished with 
favors, and soon succeeded in winning nearly all of 
them to engage in his service. With enthusiasm 
these new recruits, thus singularly gained, rallied 
around him, eager to march in the paths of glory to 
which such a leader could guide them. 

This achievement was hardly accomplished ere a 
new peril menaced the victorious Spaniard. An ex- 
press arrived from the Mexican metropolis with the 
intelligence that the Mexicans had risen in arms; that 
they had attacked the Spaniards in their quarters, and 
had killed several, and had wounded more; that they 
had also seized the two brigantines, destroyed the 
magazine of provisions, and that the whole garrison 
was in imminent danger of destruction. 

Immediately collecting his whole force, now greatly 


augmented by the accession of the vanquished troops 
of Narvaez, with their cavalry and artillery, Cortez 
hastened back from Zempoalla to the rescue of his 
beleaguered camp. His army now, with his strangely 
acquired reinforcement, amounted to over a thousand 
infantry and a hundred cavalry, besides several thou- 
sands of the natives, whom he recruited from his allies, 
the Totonacs. 

The danger was so imminent that his troops were 
urged to the utmost possible rapidity of march. At 
Tlascala, two thousand of those fierce warriors joined 
him; but as he advanced into the territory of Monte- 
zuma, he met every where the evidences of strong 
disaffection to his cause. The nobles avoided his 
camp. The inhabitants of cities and villages retired 
at his approach. No food was brought to him. The 
natives made no attempt to oppose a force so resist- 
less, but they left before him a path of silence and 

When the Spaniards arrived at the causeway which 
led to the city, they found, to their surprise, that the 
Mexicans had not destroyed the bridges, but through- 
out the whole length of this narrow passage no per- 
son was to be seen. No one welcomed or opposed. 
Fiercely those stern men strode on, over the cause- 
way and through the now deserted streets, till they 
entered into the encampment of their comrades. 

The insurrection had been suddenly excited by an 


atrocious massacre on the part of Alvarado. This 
leader, a brave soldier, but destitute either of tact or 
judgment, suspected, or pretended to suspect, that the 
Mexican nobles were conspiring to attack him. One 
of their religious festivals was at hand, when all the 
principal nobles of the empire were to be assembled 
in the performance of the rites of their religion, in the 
court-yard of the great temple. Suddenly Alvarado 
came upon them, when they were thus unarmed and 
unsuspicious, and, cutting them off from every avenue 
of escape, with musketry, artillery, and the keen 
sabers of his horsemen, mercilessly hewed them down. 
Nearly six hundred of the flower of the Mexican 
nobility were massacred. Though Cortez was very 
indignant with his lieutenant when he heard this story 
from his lips, and exclaimed, "Your conduct has been 
that of a madman," he was still enraged with the 
Mexicans for venturing to attack his garrison, and de- 
clared that they should feel the weight of Spanish 

In his displeasure, he refused to call upon Monte- 
zuma. Elated by the success with which he had thus 
far triumphed over all obstacles, and deeming the 
forces he now had under his command sufficient to 
sweep, like chaff before the whirlwind, any armies 
which the natives could raise, he gave free utterance 
to expressions of contempt for both prince and people. 


There had been a tacit truce between the two parties 
for a few days, and had Cortez disavowed the conduct 
of his subaltern, and pursued conciliatory measures, it 
is possible that the natives might again have been ap- 
peased. The insolent tone he assumed, and his loud 
menace of vengeance, aroused the natives anew, and 
they grasped their arms with a degree of determination 
and ferocity never manifested before. 

Bernal Diaz in the following terms records this 
event: "Cortez asked Alvarado for what reason he 
fell upon the natives while they were dancing and 
holding a festival in honor of their gods. To this 
Alvarado replied that it was in order to be beforehand 
with them, having had intelligence of their hostile in- 
tentions toward him from two of their own nobility 
and a priest. Cortez then asked of him if it was true 
that they had requested of him permission to hold their 
festival. The other replied that it was so, and that it 
was in order to take them by surprise, and to punish 
and terrify them, so as to prevent their making war 
upon the Spaniards, that he had determined to fall on 
them by anticipation. At hearing this avowal, Cortez 
was highly enraged. He censured the conduct of 
Alvarado in the strongest terms, and in this temper 
left him. 

"Some say that it was avarice which tempted 
Alvarado to make this attack, in nrder to pillage the 


Indians of the golden ornaments which they wore at 
their festival. I never heard any just reason for the 
assertion; nor do I believe any such thing, although 
it is so represented by Bartholome de las Casas. For 
my part, I am convinced that his intention in falling 
on them at that time was in order to strike terror into 
them, and prevent their insurrection, according to the 
saying that the first attack is half the battle." 


Battle of the Dismal Night. 

Augmented forces of Cortez. — The reconnaissance. — Success of the Mexicans. 

— The conflict continued. — Troops of Narvaez begin to murmur. — The 
sally. — Cortez obliged to retreat. — The conflagration. — The desperate 
situation. — The appeal to Montezuma. — He is induced to interpose. 

— The dawn of the morning. — Attention of the natives. — Address of 
Montezuma. — He is wounded. — He refuses nourishment.— His death. — 
Raging of the battle. — The two Mexican nobles.— Escape of Cortez. — 
Night and its scenes. — Endeavors to intimidate the natives. — Their her- 
oism. — Defiance. — Cortez resolves to leave the city. — The moving 
towers. — The retreat. — The onset. — Arrival at the canal. — Imminent 
peril. — Filling the breach. — Slow advance. — The storm. — The cause- 
way. — Multitude of the enemy. — Fury of the attack. — Noche triste. — 
Separation of the Spaniards. — March to the rescue. — Destruction of a 
part of the army. — Sorrow of Cortez. — They flee to a temple. — Condi- 
tion of the party. — March over the mountains. — Value of the horses. — 
Courage of Cortez. — Shouts of defiance. — Appearance of the enemy. — 
Apprehensions of Cortez.— The attack.— Superstition of the Mexicans. — 
The capture of the standard. — The natives flee. — Arrival at Tlascala. — 
Enmity of the Tlascalans against the Mexicans. — New disasters. — New 
designs of Cortez.— Efforts to collect recruits.— Preparations for build- 
ing ships.— Remonstrance of his companions.— The foray.— Plunder.— 
The Governor of Cuba sends ships to Vera Cruz. — Expedition from the 
Governor of Jamaica.— Collection of arms.— Equipping the fleet— The 
vessels baptized. 

The force which Cortez now had under his com- 
mand, if we take into consideration the effi- 
ciency of European discipline and of Euro- 
pean weapons of warfare, was truly formidable. In the 
stone buildings which protected and encircled his en- 
campment, he could marshal, in battle array, twelve 



hundred Spaniards and eight thousand native allies; 
but they were nearly destitute of provisions, and the 
natives were rapidly assembling from all quarters into 
countless numbers. Cortez sent four hundred men out 
in the streets to reconnoitre. They had hardly emerged 
from the walls of their fortress before they were 
assailed with shouts of vengeance, and a storm of ar- 
rows and javelins fell upon them. Frensied multi- 
tudes thronged the streets and the house-tops, and 
from the roofs and the summits of the temples, stones 
and all similar missiles were poured down upon the 
heads of the Spaniards. With great difficulty this 
strong detachment fought their way back to their 
fortified quarters, having lost twenty-three in killed, 
and a large number being wounded. 

This success greatly emboldened the Mexicans, and 
in locust legions they pressed upon the Spanish quar- 
ters, rending the air with their unearthly shouts, and 
darkening the sky with their missiles. The artillery 
was immediately brought to bear upon them, and 
every volley opened immense gaps in their ranks; but 
the places of the dead were instantly occupied by 
others, and there seemed to be no end to their num- 
bers. Never did mortal men display more bravery 
than these exasperated Mexicans exhibited, struggling 
for their homes and their rights. Twice they came 
very near forcing an entrance over the walls into the 
Spanish quarters. Had they succeeded, in a hand to 


hand fight; numbers must have triumphed, and the 
Spaniards must have been inevitably destroyed; but 
the batteries of the Spaniards mowed down the assail- 
ants like grass before the scythe, and the Mexicans 
were driven from the walls. All the day long the 
conflict was continued, and late into the night. The 
ground was covered with the dead when darkness 
stopped the carnage. 

The soldiers of Narvaez, unaccustomed to such 
scenes, and appalled by the fury and the number of 
their enemies, began to murmur loudly. They had 
been promised the spoils of an empire which they 
were assured was already conquered; instead of this, 
they found themselves in the utmost peril, exposed 
to a conflict with a vigorous and exasperated enemy, 
surrounding them with numbers which could not be 
counted. Bitterly they execrated their own folly in 
allowing themselves to be thus deluded; but their 
murmurs could now be of no avail. The only hope 
for the Spaniards was in united and indomitable 

The energies of Cortez increased with the difficulties 
which surrounded him. During the night he selected 
a strong force of picked men to make a vigorous 
sally in the morning. To nerve them to higher dar- 
ing, he resolved to head the perilous enterprise him- 
self. He availed himself of all his knowledge of Indian 
warfare, and of all the advantages which European 


military art could furnish. In the early dawn, these 
troops, in solid column, rushed from the gates of their 
fortress; but the foe, greatly augmented by the fresh 
troops which had been pouring in during the night, 
were ready to receive him. Both parties fought with 
ferocity which has never been surpassed. Cortez, to 
his inexpressible chagrin, found himself compelled to 
retire before the natives, who, in numbers perfectly 
amazing, were crowding upon him. 

Most of the streets were traversed by canals. The 
bridges were broken down, and the Spaniards, thus 
arrested in their progress and crowded together, were 
overwhelmed with stones and arrows from the house- 
tops. Cortez set fire to the houses every where along 
his line of march. Though the walls of many of 
these buildings were of stone, the flames ran eagerly 
through the dry and combustible interior, and leaped 
from roof to roof. A wide and wasting conflagration 
soon swept horribly through the doomed city, adding 
to the misery of the bloody strife. All the day long 
the battle raged. The streets were strewn with the 
bodies of the dead, and crimsoned with gore. The 
natives cheerfully sacrificed a hundred of their own 
lives to take the life of one of their foes. The Span- 
iards were, however, at length driven back behind 
their walls, leaving twelve of their number dead in 
the streets, and having sixty severely wounded. 

Another night darkened over the blood-stained and 


smouldering city. The Spaniards, exhausted by the 
interminable conflict, still stood fiercely behind their 
ramparts. The natives, in continually increasing num- 
bers, surrounded them, filling the night air with 
shrieks of defiance and rage. Cortez had displayed 
personally the most extraordinary heroism during the 
protracted strife. His situation now seemed desperate. 
Though many thousands of the Mexicans had been 
slaughtered during the day, recruits flocked in so 
rapidly that their numbers remained undiminished. 
Cortez had received a severe wound in his hand 
which caused him intense anguish. His soldiers could 
hardly stand from their exhaustion. Many had been 
slain, and nearly all were wounded. The maddened 
roar of countless thousands of the fiercest warriors 
surging around their bulwarks almost deafened the 
ear. Every moment it was apprehended that the 
walls would be scaled, and the inundation pour in 
resistlessly upon them. 

In this extremity Cortez decided to appeal to his 
captive Montezuma, and try the effect of his inter- 
position to soothe or overawe his subjects. Assum- 
ing the tone of humanity, he affected to deplore the 
awful carnage which had taken place. He affirmed 
that the city must inevitably be destroyed entirely, 
and the inhabitants generally slaughtered, unless they 
could be induced to lay down their arms. Monte- 
zuma, from one of the towers of the Spanish fortress, 

M. of H.— XV— 12 


had watched, with a throbbing heart and flooded 
eyes, the progress of the fight as the flames swept 
through the streets, and destruction, like a scythe, 
mowed down his subjects. The amiable, beloved, 
perplexed sovereign was thus induced, though with 
much hesitation, to interpose. He was adored by 
his people; but he believed that the Spaniards were 
enthroned by the voice of destiny, and that resistance 
would but involve the nation in a more bloody ruin. 

Another morning dawned upon the combatants. 
In its earliest light the battle was again renewed 
with increasing fury. No pen can describe the tu- 
mult of this wild war. The yell of countless thousands 
of assailants, the clang of their trumpets, gongs, and 
drums, the clash of arms, the rattle of musketry, and 
the roar of artillery, presented a scene which had 
never before found a parallel in the New World. 

Suddenly all the tumult was hushed as the vener- 
ated emperor, dressed in his imperial robes, appeared 
upon the walls, and waved his hand to command the 
attention of his subjects. At the sight of their be- 
loved sovereign silence almost instantaneously pre- 
vailed, all bowed their heads in reverence, and many 
prostrated themselves upon the ground. Montezuma 
earnestly entreated them to cease from the conflict, 
assuring them that the Spaniards would retire from 
the city if the Mexicans would lay down their arms. 

"The war will soon be over," a Mexican shouted 


from the crowd, "for we have all sworn that not 
a Spaniard shall leave the city alive." 

As Montezuma continued his urgency, pleading for 
the detested Spaniards, the natives for a few moments 
longer continued to listen patiently. But gradually a 
sullen murmur, like a rising breeze, began to spread 
through the ranks. Reproaches and threats succeeded. 
Indignation now overtopped all barriers, and a shower 
of stones and arrows suddenly fell upon the unhappy 
monarch. Cortez had taken the precaution to send a 
body-guard upon the wall with Montezuma, with 
bucklers for his protection; but so sudden and unex- 
pected was the assault, that two arrows pierced his 
body, and a stone, striking him on the temple, felled 
him senseless to the ground before they could raise 
their shields. This was the last drop in the cup of 
bitterness which Montezuma was doomed to drain. 
The wounded monarch was conveyed to his apartment, 
crushed in spirit, and utterly broken-hearted. Finally, 
resolved no longer to live, he tore the bandages from 
his wounds, and refused all nourishment. Silent, and 
brooding over his terrible calamities, he lingered, the 
picture of dejection and woe, for a few days, until he 

In the mean time the battle was resumed with all 
its fury. Throughout the day it raged with the most 
intense ferocity. The Mexicans took possession of a 
high tower which commanded the Spanish quarters. 


It was necessary to dislodge them at any sacrifice. 
A detachment of chosen men was three times re- 
pulsed in its desperate assault. Cortez, aware that 
the safety of the army depended upon the result, or- 
dered a buckler to be bound to his arm, as he could 
not grasp it with his wounded hand, and placed him- 
self at the head of the attacking column. Animated 
by his voice and example, the Spaniards forced their 
way up the steps of the temple, driving the Mexicans 
before them. Having reached the spacious platform 
on the summit, a terrible strife ensued. Two young 
Mexican nobles resolved to effect the destruction of 
Cortez by the sacrifice of their own lives. They 
seized him, dragged him to the battlements, and 
threw themselves over while clinging to his person, 
that they might thus dash him also upon the pave- 
ment beneath. But Cortez, by his wonderful strength 
and agility, shook them off, and thus broke from their 
grasp, while they both perished. The victorious 
Spaniards then set fire to the tower. Other sorties 
were made during the day, and the wretched city 
was as the crater of a volcano of flame and blood. 
The energies of both parties seemed to redouble with 

At last another night spread its veil over the in- 
furiated combatants. In its darkest watches, the in- 
domitable Cortez made a sortie at the head of a strong 
band, and set three hundred buildings in flames. The 


/urid fire, crackling to the skies, illumined the tran- 
quil lake, and gleamed portentously upon the most 
distant villages in the vast mountain-girdled valley. 
The tumult of the midnight assault, the shrieks of the 
women and children, and the groans of the wounded 
and the dying, blended dismally with the roar of the 

Cortez now summoned the Mexican chiefs to a 
parley. He stood upon the wall. The beautiful Ma- 
rina, as interpreter, stood at his side. The native 
chiefs were upon the ground before him. The inflex- 
ible Spanish commander endeavored to intimidate his 
determined foes by threats. 

"If you do not immediately submit," said he, "I 
will lay the whole city in ashes, and every man, 
woman, and child shall be put to the sword." 

They answered defiantly, 

"The bridges are broken down, and you can not 
escape. You have better weapons of war than we, 
but we have greater numbers. If we offer a thousand 
lives for one, we will continue the battle till you are 
all destroyed." 

Saying this, they gave a signal, and a storm of 
arrows and javelins pierced the air, and fell into the 
beleaguered fortress. Notwithstanding the bold tone 
assumed by Cortez, the Spaniards were in great dis- 
may. It was manifest to all that their destruction 
was certain unless they could cut their way through 


the enemy, and escape from the city. The extraor- 
dinary energies of this iron fanatic still remained un- 
shaken. Calmly he reflected upon his position, ex- 
amined his resources, and formed his plans. The 
Mexicans had barricaded the streets, and had broken 
down the causeways, to prevent, if possible, the es- 
cape of their foes. But there was no longer any al- 
ternative for Cortez. Destruction was certain unless he 
could effect his escape. He decided to make the desper- 
ate attempt at midnight. He immediately constructed 
moving towers, to be pushed through the streets on 
wheels, at the head of his columns, under the pro- 
tection of which his soldiers could force their way, 
and make every bullet accomplish its mission. A 
platform on the top could be let down, affording a 
bridge to the roofs of the houses, thus placing the 
Spaniards on a level with their assailants. The sides 
of the towers were amply strong to repel darts and 
arrows. Thus protected from all harm, the sharp- 
shooters could sweep the streets and the house- 

At midnight the retreat was commenced in three 
divisions. Sandoval led the van, Alvarado the rear. 
Cortez took command of the center, where he placed 
the distinguished prisoners, among whom were a son 
and daughter of Montezuma, and several of the high 
nobles. He also carried with his division the artillery, 
the baggage, and a portable bridge, ingeniously con- 


structed of timber, to be laid over the breaches in 
the causeway. In profound silence the army issued 
from their quarters, and marched firmly along through 
the smouldering and gory streets. 

For a little time they advanced unmolested; but 
the Mexicans were watching their movements, and 
were silently making dispositions for a tremendous 
onset. Suddenly the shout of an innumerable multi- 
tude and the clash of arms rose fearfully in the dark 
night air, and from every quarter the natives came 
rushing on, and stones, javelins, darts, and arrows 
rattled like hail-stones upon helmet and buckler. 
Every inch of the way was now contested. The 
progress of the Spaniards, though slow, was resist- 
less, the cannon and the musketry sweeping down 
all obstacles. 

At last they arrived at one of the numerous canals 
which every where intersected the city. The bridge 
was destroyed, and the deep waters flowing from the 
lake cut off all retreat. The wooden bridge, prepared 
for such an emergency, was thrown across the chasm. 
The head of the Spanish column fought its way over 
successfully; but, unfortunately, the weight of the 
artillery and of the dense throng wedged the timbers 
so fast into the stones that all their efforts could not 
again remove them. Their peril was growing every 
moment more imminent, as the roused natives were 
thronging to every point where the retiring foe could 


be assailed. They were thus compelled to leave the 
bridge behind them. 

Advancing precipitately, the Spaniards soon ar- 
rived at a second breach. Here they found them- 
selves hemmed in on all sides, and they had no 
means of bridging the gap; but, planting their cannon 
so as to hold the natives at bay, every available hand 
was employed in filling the chasm with stones and 
timbers torn from the demolished and smouldering 
dwellings. The labor was difficult and perilous, for 
they were incessantly assailed by the most pelting 
storm of the missiles of destruction. 

For two days this terrific conflict raged. Seven 
breaches in the canals they were compelled thus to 
bridge with stones and timbers torn from the adjacent 
streets; but the Spaniards still slowly advanced, tri- 
umphing with difficulty over every obstacle which the 
natives could interpose. Though they thus sternly 
fought their way along, trampling beneath them the 
mutilated bodies of the dying and of the dead, at the 
close of the second day they found their foes more 
numerous and their situation more -desperate than 

As the gloom of night again descended, a deeper, 
heavier gloom rested upon all in the heart of the 
Spanish camp. A wailing storm arose of wind and 
rain, and nature mourned and wept as if in sym- 
pathy with the woes of man. Availing themselves of 


the darkness and of the uproar of the midnight tem- 
pest, though weary, faint, and bleeding, they urged 
their steps along the war-scathed streets, for a time 
strangely encountering no opposition. But when they 
reached the long causeway, nearly two miles in length 
and but thirty feet wide, by which alone they could 
reach the land, a yell of exultation suddenly rose 
from the black and storm-lashed waters of the lake, 
loud as the heaviest thunders. The whole lake, on 
both sides of the causeway, seemed alive with the 
boats of the natives, and the Spaniards were imme- 
diately assailed by the swarming multitudes, who, in 
the fierce and maddened strife, set all danger at defi- 

War never exhibited a more demoniac aspect. 
The natives opposed their advance, crowded their 
rear, and clambered up the sides of the causeway, 
attacking the. foe on each flank with indescribable 
fury. Fresh warriors instantly rushed into the place 
where their comrades had fallen, and those in the 
rear of the tumultuous mass crowded their com- 
panions in the front ranks resistlessly upon the com- 
pact enemy. 

There were three chasms in the causeway broken 
by the Mexicans which the Spaniards were compelled 
to bridge in the darkness and the storm, and while 
assailed by an innumerable and almost an invisible 
foe. Imagination can not compass the horrors of that 


night. Noche triste, dismal night, is the name by 
which it has ever since been distinguished. In the 
awful confusion, military skill and discipline were of 
but little avail. The Spaniards could with difficulty 
distinguish friend from foe, and ere long they were 
nearly all quite swept away by the torrent rushing 
so resistlessly upon them. 

Cortez succeeded in keeping about a hundred men 
around him, and, using the bodies of the dead to aid 
him in bridging two chasms, he at length reached 
the main land. The horrid clamor still rose from the 
darkness of the causeway as his companions, left be- 
hind, were struggling in desperation with the multi- 
tudes who inclosed them. Cortez heroically, with 
every man in his little band still able to fight, marched 
back to their rescue. A few succeeded in breaking 
through the enemy, and joined him. Multitudes were 
struck down or hurled into the lake; but dreadful was 
the anguish of Cortez as he heard, piercing through 
the clamor, the cries for help of his companions who 
were seized by the natives as captives, and who were 
being borne away to be offered in sacrifice to their 
gods. The few who escaped, exhausted and bleed- 
ing, clung together for the remainder of the night 
near the village of Tacuba, where the causeway 
reached the main land. 

When the first gray of the lurid morning dawned, 
the whole length of the causeway was seen covered 


with the bodies of the slain. The chasms were 
clogged up with fragments of artillery, baggage-wag- 
ons, dead horses, and the corpses of Spaniards and 
natives. The features of the dead were distorted by 
all the hateful passions of the strife. A few only had 
escaped. Nearly all the horses, all the cannon, all the 
plundered treasure, and all the baggage-wagons, were 
either sunk in the lake, or were floating in fragments 
upon its surface. The storm had passed away, and 
the piacid waters were blackened with the war-canoes 
of the natives. Not even a musket remained to the 
Spaniards. Bernal Diaz records that in this bloody 
night eight hundred and seventy of the Spaniards per- 
ished. More than four thousand of their allies were 
also slain. 

As Cortez gazed upon the feeble band of mangled 
and bleeding soldiers which now alone remained to 
him, even his stern heart was moved, and he bowed 
his head and wept bitterly. We can not regret that 
some drops of retributive woe were wrung from the 
heart of that guilty conqueror. He had overwhelmed 
a benighted nation with misery. Under the divine 
government, such a crime can not go unpunished, 
and the penalty must descend either it this life or in 
that which is to come. 

But this was no time to indulge in grief. It was 
necessary immediately to find some shelter for the 
wearied troops. The Mexicans were preparing to re- 


new the attack, and the inhabitants of Tacuba were 
assembling in arms. At a little distance, on a rising 
ground, Cortez discovered a large stone temple. He 
immediately took possession of it, and here found not 
only temporary shelter, but, fortunately, provisions 
for his almost famished troops. Here, for a day, the 
Spaniards beat off the foe who incessantly assailed 

"And God only knows," says Cortez, "the toil 
and fatigue with which it was accomplished; for of 
twenty-four horses that remained to us, there was 
not one that could move briskly, nor a horseman able 
to raise his arm, nor a foot-soldier unhurt who could 
make any effort." 

They were now on the western side of the lake. 
It was necessary to pass around the northern shore 
of this vast expanse of water, as the country was 
there thinly populated, and they would be conse- 
quently less liable to attack. The road led a distance 
of nearly a hundred miles over mountains and through 
marshes to the eastern shore. From there, a march 
of more than sixty-four miles was necessary before 
they could reach the territory of Tlascala, which was 
the first point where they could hope for any relief. 

Under the guidance of a Tlascalan soldier, the de- 
spairing band commenced its march. They advanced 
the first day and night but nine miles, fighting inces- 
santly all the way. For six days, with hardly any 


respite, they continued their retreat. Their only food 
they gathered as they hurried along, of berries, roots, 
and green corn. They were continually assailed by 
the indefatigable foe; but with their few remaining 
horses, their steel swords, and the energies which 
European civilization confers, they beat off their as- 
sailants and continued their flight. As the horses 
were needed to beat off the swarming foe, the sick 
and wounded were compelled to hobble along, as they 
could, on crutches. "Next to God," says Cortez, 
" our greatest security was in our horses." One horse 
was killed. The Spaniards eagerly devoured his flesh, 
"not leaving," says Cortez, "even his skin, or any 
other part of him, so great were our necessities." 

Cortez, who promptly recovered from his momen- 
tary weakness, manifested the utmost sereneness and 
imperturbability of spirit, shared every hardship of 
the soldiers, and maintained their confidence in him 
by surpassing all in the gallantry and the magnanim- 
ity of his courage. 

Exhausted and wounded as they were, it required 
the toilsome journey of a week to reach the moun- 
tain summits which encircle the great valley of Mex- 
ico. As they approached the defiles of these moun- 
tains, parties of the enemy were seen here and there 
in increasing numbers. The natives shouted to them 
from a distance insults, defiance, and threats. Marina, 
who fortunately escaped the massacre of the dismal 


night, remarked that they often, in exultant tones, 

"Hurry along, robbers, hurry along; you will soon 
meet with the vengeance due to your crimes." 

The significance of this threat was soon made 
manifest. As the Spaniards were emerging from a 
narrow pass among the cliffs of the mountains, they 
came suddenly upon an extended plain. Here, to their 
amazement, they found an enormous army of the 
natives filling the whole expanse, and apparently cut- 
ting off all possibility of farther retreat. The sight 
was sufficient to appal the most dauntless heart. The 
whole plain, as far as the eye could extend, seemed as 
a living ocean of armed men, with its crested billows 
of banners, and gleaming spears, and helmets, and 
plumes. Even the heart of Cortez for a moment sank 
within him as his practiced eye told him that there 
were two hundred thousand warriors there in battle 
array, through whose serried ranks he must cut his 
bloody path or perish. To all the Spaniards it seemed 
certain that their last hour had now tolled; but each 
man resolved to sell his life as dearly as possible. 

Cortez immediately assembled his band around 
him, and invigorated them with a forcible harangue. 
He assured them that there was no possible hope but 
in the energies of despair; but that, with those ener- 
gies, they might confidently expect God's blessing, for 
they were his servants, his missionaries, endeavoring 



to overthrow the idols of the heathen, and to intro- 
duce the religion of the cross. In solid column, with 
their long spears bristling in all directions, and clad 
in coats of mail which protected a great part of their 
bodies from both arrow and spear, they plunged des- 
perately into the dense masses of the enemy. Wher- 
ever this solid body of iron men directed its course, 
the tumultuous throng of the foe was pierced and 
dashed aside, as the stormy billows of the ocean yield 
to the careering steamer. The marvelous incidents of 
this fight would occupy pages. The onset of the 
Spaniards was so fierce that the natives could present 
no effectual resistance; but as the Indians were com- 
pelled to retire from the front of the assailing column, 
they closed up with shouts of vengeance and with re- 
doubled fury upon the flanks and the rear. Cortez 
had heard that the superstition of the Mexicans was 
such that the fate of a battle depended upon the im- 
perial banner, which was most carefully guarded in 
the center of the army. If that were taken, the natives 
deemed themselves forsaken by their gods, and in 
dismay would break and fly. In the distance, for 
there was no smoke of artillery to darken this field 
of battle, he saw this standard proudly waving in the 
breeze. With impetuosity which crushed down all op- 
position, he pushed toward it. The standard-bearers 
were stricken down and pinned to the earth with 
lances. Cortez, with his own hand, seized the sacred 


banner, and as he waved it aloft his soldiers raised a 
simultaneous shout of triumph. 

The natives, with cries of rage, grief, and despair, 
in the wildest tumult, broke and fled to the moun- 
tains. Their gods had abandoned them. The victory 
of the Spaniards was complete. They record, though 
doubtless with exaggeration, for they had no leisure 
to stop and count the slain, that twenty thousand of 
their enemies were left dead upon that bloody field. 
With new alacrity the victors now pressed on, and 
the next day entered the territory of the Tlascalans. 

Here they were received with the greatest kind- 
ness. The enmity of the Tlascalans against the Mex- 
icans was so inveterate, and their desire to avenge 
the death of their countrymen so intense, that they 
still clung tenaciously to the Spanish alliance, with 
the hope that new resources might arrive which 
would enable the Spaniards to retrieve their fallen 

In the hospitable city of Tlascala Cortez allowed 
his shattered battalions that repose which was now 
so indispensable. Nearly all his men were suffering 
severely from sickness, fatigue, and wounds. But here 
the Spanish chieftain learned of new disasters which 
had befallen him. A detachment of Spanish soldiers, 
who were marching from Zempoalla to the capital as 
a re-enforcement, had been cut off by the natives and 
entirely destroyed. A small party, who had been 


sent to convey some treasures from TIascala to Vera 
Cruz, had also been surprised and destroyed among 
the mountains. When the life of every Spaniard was 
of so much importance, these were, indeed, terrible 
additional calamities. 

The companions of Cortez were now thoroughly 
disheartened, and were anxious to return to Vera 
Cruz, send a vessel to Cuba for some transports, and 
abandon the enterprise; but the indomitable warrior, 
though lying upon the bed in a raging fever, and 
while a surgeon was cutting off two of his mutilated 
and inflamed fingers, and raising a portion of the bone 
of his skull, which had been splintered by the club 
of a native, was forming his plans to return to Mex- 
ico and reconquer what he had lost. The resources 
at his command still appeared to him sufficient to 
form a nucleus around which to assemble a new 
army. The garrison at Vera Cruz, with its artillery 
and military stores, still remained unimpaired; the 
Tlascalans and Zempoallans continued firm in their 
alliance; and he still could assemble, notwithstanding 
his losses, as large a force as accompanied him in his 
first march into Mexico. He therefore resolved to 
make vigorous and prompt preparations to prosecute 
his enterprise anew. He wrote to his sovereign an 
account of the disasters he had encountered, saying, 
"I can not believe that the good and merciful God 
will thus suffer his cause to perish among the heathen." 

M. ofH— XV— 13 


With great energy and sagacity he aroused him- 
self for this new effort. He made special exertions to 
secure the cordial co-operation of the Tlascalan chiefs, 
by distributing among them the rich spoil taken in 
his last battle. He dispatched four ships, selected 
from the fleet captured from Narvaez, to Hispaniola 
and Jamaica, to collect recruits and supplies. That 
he might secure the command of the lake, he pre- 
pared, with the ready aid of the Tlascalans, materials 
for building twelve vessels, to be conveyed in pieces 
by the men of burden to the lake, there to be put 
together and launched upon the waters. 

The companions of Cortez had, however, by far 
too vivid a recollection of the horrors of the dismal 
night to participate in the zeal of their commander. 
Murmurs against the enterprise grew louder and 
louder, until the camp was almost in a state of mu- 
tiny. They assembled, and appointed a delegation to 
wait upon their commander, and remonstrate against 
another attempt, with his broken battalions, to sub- 
jugate so powerful an empire. Respectfully, but firmly, 
they demanded to be taken back to Cuba. All the 
arguments and entreaties of Cortez were of no avail 
to change their minds or to allay their anxieties. 

We have before mentioned that a detachment of 
soldiers from Vera Cruz had been cut off by the na- 
tives. The assailing force was from one of the Mex- 
ican provinces in the vicinity of Tlascala, called 


Tepeaca. The soldiers, without much unwillingness, 
consented to march to their region, and chastise them 
for the deed. The enterprise would be attended with 
but little danger, and promised a large amount of 
booty. It was now the month of August. Cortez 
headed the expedition, and in the foray of a few 
weeks, after an enormous slaughter of the Tepeacans, 
reduced the province to subjection, and returned to 
Tlascala laden with plunder. Another foray was soon 
undertaken, and then another. Thus, for five months, 
while he was collecting recruits and accumulating sup- 
plies, he adroitly kept his men employed in various mil- 
itary expeditions till they again became accustomed to 
victory, and were ready to enter upon a wider field of 
glory, which should open before them more brilliant 
prospects for wealth. Fortune, it is said, helps those 
who help themselves. This inflexibility of purpose 
and untiring energy on the part of Cortez, was ac- 
companied by what is usually termed the gifts of 
peculiarly good fortune. 

The Governor of Cuba, unaware of the disaster 
which had befallen Narvaez, sent two ships after him 
with a supply of men and military stores. These 
vessels were decoyed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, 
the stores seized, and the men were easily induced 
to enter into the service of Cortez. 

The Governor of Jamaica fitted out an expedition 
of three ships to prosecute an expedition of discovery 


and conquest. They were very unfortunate, and, 
after many disasters, these, ships, their crews being 
almost in a famishing state, cast anchor at Vera Cruz. 
They listened eagerly to the brilliant prospects which 
Cortez held out to them, and enlisted under his banner. 
At the same time, it also happened that a ship arrived 
from Spain, fitted out by some private merchants 
with military stores, and other articles for traffic 
among the natives. Cortez immediately purchased 
the cargo, and induced the crew to follow the exam- 
ple of the others, and join his army. At last, the 
agents he sent to Hispaniola and Jamaica returned, 
with two hundred soldiers, eighty horses, two bat- 
tering-cannon, and a considerable supply of ammuni- 
tion and muskets. Cortez had in these various ways 
now collected about eight hundred and eighteen foot- 
soldiers, eighty-six horsemen, three battering-cannon, 
and fifteen field-pieces. 

He established his head-quarters at Tepeaca, on a 
small river which ran into the lake. The iron, the 
planks, the timber, the masts, the cordage, and the 
materials necessary to construct and equip a fleet of 
thirteen brigantines, were to be carried a distance of 
sixty miles, over rough roads, on the shoulders of 
men. Eight thousand men of burden were furnished 
by the Tlascalans for this work. Tepeaca was two 
miles from the shore of the lake, and the rivulet upon 
which it was situated was shallow. A large number 


of natives were employed for two months in deepen- 
ing the channel, that the vessels might be floated 
down. Though the Mexicans made many attacks 
while the brigantines were being built, they were in- 
variably repulsed. At length the fleet was finished, 
and the whole army was drawn up to witness, with 
all the accompaniments of religious and military 
pomp, the launching of the ships. Each vessel re- 
ceived a baptismal name and a blessing from Father 
Olmedo. They glided smoothly down the river, and 
were wafted out upon the lake, a fleet amply strong 
to set all the power of the Mexicans at defiance. A 
general shout of joy burst from the lips of the Span- 
iards and Tlascalans as they observed the triumphant 
success of this measure. All despondency now dis- 
appeared, and, sanguine of success, the whole army 
was eager again to march to the assault of the capital. 


The Capital Besieged and Captured. 

Preparations for defense. — Cuitlahua. — Pestilence. — Guatemozin. — The brig- 
antines. — The fleet is attacked. — The Spanish victorious. — Dismay of 
the Mexicans. — Cortez's skill. — The siege continued. — Obstinate resist- 
ance. — Sortie by the Mexicans. — Preparations for sacrifice. — Torturing 
the captives. — The sacrifice. — The Mexicans are elated by their victory. 

— Shrewdness of Cortez. — His allies. — Progress of the siege. — The allies 
in the city. — Sufferings of the Mexicans. — The public square. — Affairs in 
the Mexican camp. — A desperate resolve. — Pursuit. — The monarch cap- 
tured. — His dignity. — Guatemozin's fortitude. — Pretended magnanimity 
of Cortez. — The Mexicans surrender. — l,oss of the Spanish. — Appear- 
ance of the captured city. — Piety of Cortez. — Searching for the treasures. 

— The native allies. — Their carousals. — Spanish revelries and religious 
celebrations. — An entertainment.— The plant of Noah. — Father Olmedo. 

— Religious ceremonies. — Discontent. — Clamors of the army. — Cortez 
yields. — Guatemozin's tortures. — Cortez rescues him. — The divers. — Na- 
ture of the Mexican empire. — The various Mexican governments yield to 
Cortez.— Perplexity of Cortez. — His treason. — Velasquez. — Cortez's la- 
bors. — His dispatches. — An extract. — Cortez's address to the nobles. — 
Ciquacoacin's reply. — He departs. — I,oss of the Mexicans. — Fifty thou- 
sand killed.— Cannonading the city.— The musketry. — Capture of Gua- 
temozin. — His behavior. — Anniversary of the capture of Mexico. 

While Cortez was thus vigorously preparing 
to renew the assault upon the city of 
Mexico, the Mexicans were no less busy 
in their preparations for defense. Upon the death of 
Montezuma, the crown passed to his more warlike 
brother Cuitlahua. By his energies the Spaniards had 
been driven from the metropolis,, and he immediately, 

with great vigor, fortified the city anew, and recruited 


and drilled his armies, now familiar with the weapons 
of European warfare. He sent an embassy to the 
Tlascalans, urging alliance against a common foe, and 
endeavoring to incite them to rise and crush the 
Spaniards, who, without their alliance, would have 
been entirely helpless. The sagacity of Cortez, how- 
ever, baffled these efforts, and he succeeded in bind- 
ing the Tlascalans to him by still stronger ties. 

Among other woes, the Spaniards had introduced 
the small-pox into Mexico. The terrible curse now 
swept like a blast of destruction through the land. 
The natives perished by thousands. Many cities and 
villages were almost depopulated. The fearful pesti- 
lence reached the Mexican capital, and the emperor, 
Cuitlahua, soon fell a victim to its ravages. 

Guatemozin, the son-in-law of Montezuma, was 
then, by the unanimous acclaim of his countrymen, 
placed upon the throne. He was a young man of 
high reputation for ability and force of character, and 
proved himself the worthy leader of his nation in this 
dreadful crisis of its fate. Guatemozin assembled all 
his forces in the capital, as the strongest point upon 
which they could stand upon their defense. 

Cortez decided to make the assault by three divi- 
sions of the army, each marching over one of the 
causeways. Sandoval was to command on the north, 
Alvarado on the west, and Olid on the south. Cor- 
tez reserved to himself the command of the brigan- 


tines, which were to sweep the lakes, and drive the 
war-canoes of the natives from the causeways. Each 
brigantine was manned with twenty-five Spaniards, 
and armed with a cannon, whose shot would make 
fearful havoc among the frail and crowded canoes of 
the Mexicans. 

Guatemozin immediately foresaw how much he 
had to dread from this fleet, and decided that, at 
every hazard, he must attempt its destruction. He 
accordingly assembled an enormous mass of canoes, 
hoping by numbers to overpower the enemy. The 
day was calm; not a ripple disturbed the glassy sur- 
face of the water, when a fleet of canoes, in num- 
bers which could not be counted, pushed out boldly 
into the lake to assail the brigantines lying at 

But just then, to the great joy of the Spaniards 
and to the dismay of the Mexicans, a fresh and favor- 
able breeze arose, which would drive the brigantines 
resistlessly through the swarm of fragile boats which 
were approaching them. The sails were instantly 
spread, the cannon were loaded almost to the muz- 
zle, and the work of death began. The heavy vessels 
crushed the canoes, overturned them, drove them one 
upon another in indescribable confusion, v/hile the 
merciless shot pierced bones, and nerves, and sinews, 
and the surface of the lake was covered with the 
mutilated bodies of the dying and of the dead. The 


water was red with blood, and in a short time the 
fleet was destroyed; but few of the boats escaped. 
The Mexicans, from their house-tops, gazed with dis- 
may upon this awful scene of carnage, and were op- 
pressed with fearful forebodings that no degree of 
courage and no superiority of numbers could avail 
them against the terrible engines of destruction which 
European skill had framed. 

Cortez was now completely master of the lake. 
He formed his brigantines into three divisions, to 
cover the assailants on the three causeways and to 
protect them from any attack by canoes. He thus 
also preserved communication, prompt and effective, 
between the different divisions of his army. The 
military skill displayed by Cortez in all these arrange- 
ments is of the highest kind. The conquest of Mex- 
ico was not achieved by accident, but by sagacity, 
persevering energy, and patient toil almost unparal- 

The siege was now prosecuted with the most de- 
termined vigor. The approaches were made along 
the three causeways. The natives had broken down 
the bridges and reared a succession of formidable 
barricades, and as they were driven from one by the 
irresistible force of artillery, they retired, with firm- 
ness worthy of admiration, to the next, there to main- 
tain their post to the last possible moment. The 
brigantines approached the sides of the causeways 


and opened a destructive fire upon the valiant defend- 
ers, where the Spaniards were exposed to no danger 
in return. Thus for nearly three months, by day and 
by night, on the land and on the water, the bloody 
strife was continued. 

Cortez was astonished at the obstinacy and effi- 
ciency of the resistance effected by the besieged. 
Gradually, however, the besiegers advanced, carefully 
filling up behind them the gaps in the causeway, that 
they might easily, if necessary, effect a retreat. They 
were taught the necessity of this precaution by a ter- 
rible repulse which they at one time encountered. 
Guatemozin, with a quick military eye, perceiving 
that the causeway occupied by one of the divisions 
of the Spaniards was impassable behind the Spaniards 
from trenches unfilled, and broken bridges, and the 
ruins of barricades, ordered the Mexican troops to re- 
tire, to lure the Spaniards forward. He then collected 
an enormous force, dispatching some in canoes along 
shallows which the brigantines could not approach, 
and then, at a signal from the great alarm drum on 
the summit of the temple, whose doleful tones could 
be heard for miles, the whole mass, with frantic rage, 
stimulated by hope, rushed upon the foe. The sud- 
den assault, so impetuous, and sustained by such 
vast numbers, was quite successful. The Spaniards 
were driven back in confusion, horsemen and infantry 
crowding upon each other, till multitudes were forced, 


pell-mell, horses, and cannon, and men, into the 
chasms. Here the natives, in their light canoes, fell 
furiously upon them. More than twenty Spaniards 
were killed outright, and forty, mangled and bleed- 
ing, fell alive into the hands of the victors. There 
was no possible escape for the captives from their 
doom. They were to be sacrificed to the gods. 

This was an awful reverse, and the Spaniards 
were horror-stricken in contemplating the fate of their 
captured comrades. The capital was that night illu- 
minated with great brilliance, and the splendor of the 
great pyramidal temple, blazing with innumerable 
torches, gleamed far and wide over the lake. It was 
an awful spectacle to the Spaniards, for they well 
knew the scenes which were transpiring on that lofty 
altar of idolatry. The preparations for the sacrifice 
could be distinctly seen, and the movements of the 
sacrificial priests. The white bodies of the victims 
could also be clearly discerned as they were stripped 
naked for the torture and the knife; and when the 
awful torture was applied, the shrieks of the wretched 
sufferers pierced the still night air, and penetrated 
the camp of the Spaniards. They listened appalled to 
those cries of agony, imagining that they could dis- 
tinguish each victim by the sound of his voice. 

This awful scene is thus described by Diaz: "On 
a sudden, our ears were struck by the horrific sound 
of the great drum, the timbrels, horns and trumpets 


on the temple. We all directed our eyes thither, 
and, shocking to relate, saw our unfortunate country- 
men driven by blows to the place where they were 
to be sacrificed, which bloody ceremony was accom- 
panied by the dismal sound of all the instruments of 
the temple. We perceived that when they had 
brought the wretched victims to the flat summit of 
the body of the temple, they put plumes upon their 
heads, and made them dance before their accursed 
idols. When they had done this, they laid them 
upon their backs on the stone used for the purpose, 
where they cut out their hearts alive, and having 
presented them, yet palpitating, to their gods, they 
drew the bodies down the steps by the feet, where 
they were taken by others of their priests. Let the 
reader think what were our sensations on this occa- 
sion. O heavenly God ! said we to ourselves, do 
not suffer us to be sacrificed by these wretches. Do 
not suffer us to die so cruel a death. And then, 
how shocking a reflection, that we were unable to 
relieve our poor friends, who were thus murdered 
before our eyes." 

This victory elated the Mexicans exceedingly. 
They cut off the heads of the sacrificed Spaniards, 
and sent them to the adjacent provinces, to prove 
that their gods, now appeased by this signal offering 
of blood, had abandoned the enemy. The priests 
sent the assurance far and wide that victory was now 


certain, as the oracles had returned the response that 
in eight days the detested enemy should be entirely 
destroyed. This prediction exerted a great influence 
upon a superstitious people. Many of the natives who 
had joined Cortez deserted his cause, and even the 
Tlascalans began to waver. The prudence and shrewd- 
ness of Cortez again met the danger and averted it. 
For eight days he made no advance, but merely stood 
on the defensive. The predicted time having expired, 
he said, "You see that the gods have deceived the 
Mexicans. They have espoused our cause." 

The fickle people immediately returned to their 
stations, and others joined them, so that Cortez, ac- 
cording to his own account, now found himself at 
the head of one hundred and fifty thousand Indians. 
Gomara and Herrera assert that there were not less 
than two hundred thousand. The number of defend- 
ers in the Mexican capital can not with accuracy be 
ascertained. It is estimated, however, from various 
considerations, that there must have been at least two 
hundred thousand. 

The Spaniards, in this sanguinary and protracted 
siege, often suffered severely for want of food. With 
apparent reluctance, the historians of the expedition 
record that their Indian auxiliaries found quite an 
abundant supply for themselves in the bodies of their 
enemies. Some of them were rather ashamed to ac- 
knowledge that their auxiliaries were inveterate can- 


nibals. Cortez, however, alludes to their horrible re- 
pasts quite in a tone of indifference. 

With greater caution the Spaniards now advanced, 
fortifying every point they gained, and preparing a 
smooth and unobstructed road in the rear. Their 
progress was exceedingly slow, and it was necessary 
to adopt every possible precaution against an enemy 
who had manifested such unexpected audacity and 
skill. As the Spaniards pushed forward, the Mexicans, 
contesting every inch of the way, sullenly retired, 
rearing barricade after barricade, and digging ditch 
behind ditch. But artillery and European science were 
sure, in the end, to triumph. Gradually the three 
divisions of the army forced their way across the 
causeways, and entered the streets of the city. But 
here the defense was, if possible, still more deter- 
mined and sanguinary. Every street was a guarded 
defile, where every obstacle was interposed which 
Mexican military skill could devise. Every house was 
a fortress, from whose battlemented roof and loop- 
holed windows a shower of stones, arrows, and jave- 
lins fell upon the besiegers. As the Spaniards gained 
ground, step by step, they leveled every house, and 
left entire ruin and desolation behind them. 

Day after day and week after week of this un- 
paralleled siege lingered along, every hour of which 
almost was a battle. The Mexicans fell in incredible 
numbers. The horrors of pestilence and famine in the 


pent-up city were soon added to the awful carnage 
and misery of war. The brigantines swept the lake, 
cutting off nearly all supplies by water for the valiant 
yet starving defenders, while the armies on the cause- 
ways completely invested the city by land. Wan 
and haggard, these unhappy victims of European ag- 
gression, even when all hope of successful resistance 
had expired, heroically resolved to perish to the last 
man, and to bury themselves beneath the ruins of 
their city. 

Even the heart of Cortez was touched with the 
almost unearthly misery he was inflicting upon an 
unoffending people. Again and again he sent to 
Guatemozin demanding capitulation; but the proud 
Mexican monarch rejected every overture with indig- 
nation and scorn. At length the three divisions of 
the army, from their three different points of attack, 
penetrated the city so far as to meet at the great 
public square. The whole western portion of the city 
was now in the power of the besiegers. The starv- 
ing and dying defenders were shut up in a small 
section of less than one fourth of the capital. 

The Spaniards, now sure of success, pressed the 
siege with new ardor. Their forces had met, and 
were combined in the great square. The avenues 
connecting with the country were all open before 
them, so that they could freely go and come. The 
lake was swept by the brigantines, and, though a 


swift canoe could occasionally shoot along the shore, 
the natives could not venture, in the face of such a 
force, to cross the wide expanse of water. Affairs in 
the Mexican camp were now in the very darkest 
state of misery and gloom. 

The Mexicans regarded their monarch with super- 
stitious veneration. Upon his life all their destinies 
were suspended. His voice was omnipotent with the 
people. After a long deliberation, the desperate re- 
solve was adopted to send Guatemozin in a canoe 
across the broad waters of the lake, which like an 
ocean swept around the city, to the eastern shore. 
But Cortez, ever on the alert, anticipated this move- 
ment, and ordered the brigantines to maintain the most 
vigilant watch. The Mexicans, to deceive Cortez, 
sent an embassy to him to confer upon terms of ca- 
pitulation. They hoped thus to engage his attention 
so that Guatemozin could escape unperceived, and, 
having roused all the distant provinces, who would 
spring to arms at his voice, could make an assault 
upon the rear of the foe. 

Sandoval was now placed in command of the 
brigantines. He observed one morning several canoes, 
crowded with people and plied by strong rowers, 
shoot from the city, and direct their course across 
the lake toward the eastern shore. The signal was 
instantly given for pursuit. Unfortunately for the 
Mexicans, a favorable breeze sprang up, and one of 


the brigantines soon drew near the largest boat. 
The cannon was loaded, and heavily shotted and 
aimed. The gunner stood ready with his lighted 
torch. In another moment the fatal discharge would 
have strewed the lake with the fragments of the boat 
and the mangled bodies of the slain. The Mexicans, re- 
gardless of their own lives, but intensely anxious for 
the safety of their sovereign, dropped their oars, and 
holding up their hands beseechingly, with cries and 
tears, besought the Spaniards not to fire, exclaiming 
that the emperor was there. 

Eagerly the precious prize was seized. The heroic 
Guatemozin with dignity surrendered himself into the 
hands of his victors, asking no favor for himself, but 
simply requesting that no insult might be offered to 
the empress or his children, who were in the boat 
with him. With much exultation, the captive mon- 
arch, who was but twenty-four years of age, was 
conveyed to the shore, and conducted into the pres- 
ence of Cortez. Guatemozin retained his fortitude 
unshaken. Looking firmly upon his conqueror, he 
said, loftily, 

"I have done what became a monarch. I have 
defended my people to the last extremity. Nothing 
now remains for me but to die. Take this dagger," he 
continued, placing his hand upon the one which Cortez 
wore at his side, "and plunge it into my bosom, 
and thus end a life which is henceforth useless." 

M. of H.— xv— 14 


Cortez well knew how to act the part of magna- 
nimity. He was by instinct a man of princely man- 
ners. Castilian grace and dignity ever shone pre-em- 
inent in his movements. He endeavored to console 
his vanquished foe, whose bold defense commanded 
his respect. 

"You are not my captive," said he, "but the 
prisoner of the greatest monarch of Europe. From 
his great clemency, you may hope not only that you 
may be restored to liberty, but that you may again 
be placed upon the throne which you have so val- 
iantly defended." 

Guatemozin had no confidence in the word of 
Cortez. He knew well the perfidy and the treachery 
which had marked every step of the invader's march 
thus far. Proudly disdaining to manifest any concern 
for his own fate, he plead only that Cortez would be 
merciful to his suffering people. The conqueror prom- 
ised compassion if Guatemozin would command their 
instant surrender. This was promptly done, and the 
command was instantly obeyed. The Mexicans lost 
all heart as soon as they learned that their monarch 
was a prisoner. Cortez immediately took possession 
of a small portion of the city which still remained 

Thus terminated this memorable siege, one of the 
most remarkable which has been recorded in the hor- 
rid annals of war. It had continued for seventy-five 


days of almost incessant conflict. Almost every hour 
the fiercest battle raged, as step by step the assail- 
ants, with the utmost effort and difficulty, crowded 
back the valiant defenders. No less than one hundred 
and fifty thousand Mexicans perished in this awful 
and atrocious siege. The Spaniards, who wished to 
make their loss appear as small as possible, admit 
that one hundred of the Spanish soldiers fell, and 
many thousands of their allies. 

Nearly the whole capital was now but a mass of 
blackened and smouldering ruins. Its numerous 
squares, streets, and courts, but recently so beautiful 
in their neat order, and their embellishments of shrub- 
bery and flowers, were now clotted with blood and 
covered with the mangled bodies of the slain. The 
sight was hideous even to those accustomed to all 
the revolting scenes which demoniac war ever brings 
in its train. 

The ground was covered with the dead. Among 
the putrefying heaps some wretches were seen, 
wounded, bleeding, and crawling about in advanced 
stages of those loathsome diseases produced by famine 
and misery. 

The air was so polluted with the masses of the 
dead, decaying beneath the rays of a tropical sun, 
that Cortez was compelled to withdraw his army 
from the city that the dead might be removed and 
the streets purified. For three days and three nights 


the causeways were thronged by endless processions 
of the natives bearing the mouldering corpses from 
the city. But the Spaniards were insensible to the 
woes which they had inflicted upon others in their 
exultation over their great victory. They had con- 
quered the enemy. The capital was in their hands, 
and they had now but to collect the boundless treas- 
ures which they supposed were accumulated in the 
halls of Montezuma. It was on Tuesday, the 13th of 
August, 1 52 1, that the conflict ceased. The mighty 
empire of Mexico on that day perished, and there re- 
mained in its stead but a colony of Spain. 

On the very day of the capture Cortez searched 
every spot where treasure could be found, and having 
collected every thing of value, returned to his camp, 
"giving thanks," he says, "to our Lord for so signal 
a reward and so desirable a victory as he has granted 
us." He continued for three or four days searching 
eagerly for spoils, amid all the scenes of horror pre- 
sented by the devastated city. All the gold and silver 
which were found were melted down, and one fifth 
was set apart for the King of Spain, while the rest 
was divided among the Spaniards according to their 
rank and services. 

"Among the spoils obtained in the city," says 
Cortez, in his dispatch to Charles V., "were many 
shields of gold, plumes, panaches, and other articles 
of so wonderful a character, that language will not 


convey an idea of them nor could a correct concep- 
tion be formed of their rare excellence without seeing 

Still the booty which was gained fell far short of 
the expectation of the victors. The heroic Guatemozin, 
when the hope of successful defense had expired, de- 
termined that the conquerors should not be enriched 
by the treasures of the empire. A vast amount was 
consequently sent out in boats, and sunk to the bot- 
tom of the lake. For a short time, however, exulta- 
tion in view of their great victory caused both the 
commander and his soldiers to forget their disappoint- 
ment; love of glory for a moment triumphed over 

The native allies had been but tools in the hand 
of Cortez to subjugate the Mexicans. The deluded 
natives had thus also subjugated themselves. They 
were now powerless, and the bond-servants of the 
Spaniards. Cortez allowed them to sack the few re- 
maining dwellings of the smouldering capital, and to 
load themselves with such articles as might seem 
valuable to semi-barbarian eyes, but which would have 
no cash value in Spain. With this share of the 
plunder they were satisfied, and their camp resounded 
with revelry as those fierce warriors, with songs and 
dances, exulted over the downfall of their ancient foes. 
Cortez thanked them for their assistance, praised them 
for their valor, and told them that they might now 


go home. They went home, soon to find that it was 
to them home no more. The stranger possessed their 
country, and they and their children were his slaves. 

In the Spanish camp the victory was honored by 
a double celebration. The first was purely worldly, 
and religion was held entirely in abeyance. Bonfires 
blazed. Deep into the night the drunken revelry re- 
sounded over the lake, until Father Olmedo remon- 
strated against such godless wassail. 

The next day was appropriated to the religious 
celebration. The whole army was formed into a pro- 
cession. The image of the peaceful Virgin was deco- 
rated with tattered, blackened, and bloodstained ban- 
ners, beneath which the Christians had so successfully 
struggled against the heathen. With hymns and 
chants, and in the repetition of creeds and prayers, 
this piratic band of fanatics, crimson with the blood 
of the innocent, moved to an appointed sanctuary, 
where Father Olmedo preached an impressive sermon, 
and solemnized the ordinance of the mass. The sac- 
rament was administered to Cortez and his captains, 
and, with the imposing accompaniments of martial 
music and pealing artillery, thanksgivings were offered 
to God. 

Bernal Diaz gives the following quaint and graphic 
account of these festivities: 

"After having returned thanks to God, Cortez deter- 


mined to celebrate his success by a festival in Cuyoacan. 
A vessel had arrived at Villa Rica with a cargo of 
wine, and hogs had been provided from the island of 
Cuba. To this entertainment he invited all the officers 
of his army, and also the soldiers of estimation. All 
things being prepared, on the day appointed we 
waited on our general. 

"When we came to sit down to dinner, there were 
not tables for one half of us. This brought on great 
confusion among the company, and, indeed, for many 
reasons, it would have been much better let alone. 
The plant of Noah was the cause of many fooleries 
and worse things. It made some leap over the tables 
who afterward could not go out at the doors, and many 
rolled down the steps. The private soldiers swore 
they would buy horses with golden harness. The 
cross-bow-men would use none but golden arrows. 
All were to have their fortunes made. 

"When the tables were taken away, the soldiers 
danced in their armor with the ladies, as many of 
them as there were, but the disproportion in numbers 
was very great. This scene was truly ridiculous. I 
will not mention the names; suffice it to say, a fair 
field was open for satire. Father Olmedo thought 
what he observed at the feast and in the dances too 
scandalous, and complained to Sandoval. The latter 
directly told Cortez how the reverend father was scold- 
ing and grumbling. 


"Cortez, discreet in all his actions, immediately 
went to Father Olmedo, and, affecting to disapprove 
of the whole affair, requested that he would order a 
solemn mass and thanksgiving, and preach a sermon 
to the soldiers of the moral and religious duties. 
Father Olmedo was highly pleased at this, thinking it 
had originated spontaneously from Cortez, and not 
knowing that the hint had been given him by Sandoval. 
Accordingly, the crucifixes and the image of Our Lady 
were borne in solemn procession, with drums and 
standards. The Litany was sung during the ceremony. 
Father Olmedo preached and administered the sacra- 
ment, and we returned thanks to God for our victory." 

But now came the hour for discontent and mur- 
muring. The excitement was over, the din of arms 
was hushed, the beautiful city was entirely destroyed, 
and two hundred thousand of the wretched inhabitants, 
whose only crime against the Spaniards was that they 
defended their wives, their children, and their homes, 
were festering in the grave. In counting up their 
gains, these guilty men found that the whole sum 
amounted to about one hundred and twenty thousand 
dollars. Their grievous disappointment vented itself 
in loud complainings, and was soon turned into rage. 
They accused Guatemozin of having secreted the 
treasure which had been hoarded up, and demanded 
that he should be put to the torture to compel 


him to disclose the place of concealment. Cortez, for 
a time, firmly refused to yield to this atrocious de- 
mand; but the clamor of the disaffected grew louder 
and louder, until at last Cortez was accused of being 
in agreement with Guatemozin, that he might appro- 
priate to his own use the secreted treasure. 

Thus goaded, Cortez infamously consented that the 
unhappy captive monarch should be put to the torture. 
The cacique of Tacuba, the companion of Guatemozin, 
and his highest officer, was put to the torture with 
him. A hot fire was kindled, and the feet of the 
wretched victims, drenched in oil, were exposed to the 
burning coals. Guatemozin had nothing to reveal. 
He could merely assert that the treasures of the city 
were thrown into the lake. With extraordinary for- 
titude he endured the agony, adding additional luster 
to a name already ennobled by the heroism with 
which he conducted the defense. His companion 
died upon this bed of agony. In the extremity of his 
torment, he turned an imploring eye toward the king. 
Guatemozin, it is recorded, observing his look, replied, 
"Am I, then, reposing upon a bed of flowers?" 
Cortez, who had reluctantly yielded to this atrocity, 
at last interposed, and rescued the imperial sufferer. 
Cortez has much to answer for before the bar of this 
world's judgment. For many of his criminal acts 
some apology may be framed, but for the torture of 
Guatemozin he stands condemned without excuse. 


No voice will plead his cause. Cortez seemed to be 
fully aware that it was not a creditable story for him 
to tell, and in his dispatches to the King of Spain he 
made no allusion to the event. 

It was a grievous disappointment to Cortez that 
so little treasure was obtained, for his ambition was 
roused to send immense sums to the Spanish court, 
that he might purchase high favor with his monarch 
by thus proving the wealth and grandeur of the king- 
dom he had subjugated. Cortez himself accompanied 
a party of practiced divers upon the lake, and long 
and anxiously conducted the search; but the divers 
invariably returned from the oozy bottom empty- 
handed: no treasure could be found. 

It has before been mentioned that the empire of 
Mexico consisted of a conglomeration of once inde- 
pendent nations, which had been in various ways 
annexed to the mammoth empire. It was somewhat 
like Austria, having many Hungarys and Polands ripe 
for revolt. Cortez had adroitly availed himself of 
these disaffections in accomplishing his wonderful 
conquest. The Zempoallans and Tlascalans augmented 
his ranks with fierce warriors nearly two hundred 
thousand in number. There were many provinces of 
the empire on the north and the west which as yet 
no European foot had ever entered. It was a question 
whether these remote provinces would band together 
in hostility to the Spaniards, and thus indefinitely 


protract the conflict, or whether, seeing the capital in 
ruins and their monarch a captive, they would admit 
the hopelessness of the strife, and yield to their con- 

Far and wide, through the valleys and over the 
mountains, the tidings of the annihilation of the Mexi- 
can army was borne by the Indian runners, awaken- 
ing consternation every where in view of the resistless 
power of the victors. Some, however, who were 
restive under the Mexican yoke, were not unwilling 
to exchange masters. To the great relief and joy of 
Cortez, day after day, envoys flocked to his presence 
from powerful nations to proffer allegiance and implore 
clemency. Cortez received them all with great cour- 
tesy and hospitality, and took not a little pleasure in 
witnessing the amazement with which these embas- 
sadors contemplated the power, to them supernatural, 
which the Spaniards wielded. The brigantines spread 
their sails and plowed their way, with speed which 
no canoe could equal, over the foamy waters of the 
lake. The cavalry wheeled and charged in all those 
prompt and orderly evolutions to which the war-horse 
can be trained. And when the heavy artillery uttered 
its roar, and shivered the distant rock with its thunder- 
bolt, the envoys, amazed, bewildered, and appalled, 
were prepared to make any concessions rather than 
incur the displeasure of such fearful foes. 

The power of Cortez was now unquestioned, and 


Mexico was in the dust before him. Still, the con- 
queror was in great perplexity respecting the light in 
which his conduct was viewed in the court of his 
stern monarch, Charles V. While engaged in the 
slaughter of two or three hundred thousand people, 
while overrunning nations and establishing new gov- 
ernments, he was acting not only without authority 
from his government, but in direct opposition to its 
commands. Velasquez, the Governor of Cuba, was 
invested with authority by the voice of the emperor, 
and yet Cortez had set his power at defiance. By 
the command of the emperor, expeditions had been 
fitted out to prosecute discoveries and to acquire do- 
minion in Mexico, and yet Cortez had audaciously 
made war upon these bands marching under the ban- 
ner of Spain. He had slain many, taken the rest, 
prisoners, and constrained them, by bribes and men- 
aces, to join his marauding army. Cortez well knew 
that this was treason, and that he was liable to an- 
swer for it with his life. He well knew that Velas- 
quez, mortified and exasperated, had made bitter 
complaints against him at court, and that there was 
no one there effectually to plead his cause. 

Under these circumstances, Cortez awaited with 
much solicitude the next arrival from Spain. In the 
mean time, he made every possible effort to transmit 
gold and silver to the Spanish monarch, and with un- 
tiring zeal urged his discoveries, that he might en- 


noble himself and win the gratitude of his sovereign 
by adding to the wealth, the dominion, and the fame 
of his native kingdom. Wishing to assume that he 
was acting humbly as the servant of his king, he sent 
him, in the form of dispatches, a minute account of 
all his movements. 

As a specimen of these dispatches, the reader will 
peruse with interest the following account of the last 
two days of the siege. This dispatch is dated from 
the City of Cuyoacan (Mexico), May 15th, 1522. This 
city was on the main land, at the end of one of the 
causeways which led to the island capital. The letter 
is thus humbly addressed: 

"Most high and potent Prince; most catholic and 
invincible Emperor, King, and Lord." 

This narrative of the siege is so minute as to oc- 
cupy one hundred and fifty closely-printed octavo 
pages, and gives a circumstantial account of the pro- 
ceedings of each day. The closing paragraphs only 
are here extracted. The narrative which Cortez gives 
sometimes differs, in unimportant particulars, from that 
recorded by other historians of the campaign, who were 
eye-witnesses of the scenes which they described. 

"As soon as it was day, I caused our whole force 
to be in readiness, and the heavy guns to be brought 
out. The day before, I had ordered Pedro de Alvarado 
to wait for me in the square of the market-place, and 


not to attack the enemy until I arrived. Being all 
assembled, and the brigantines drawn up ready for 
action on the right of the houses situated on the 
water, where the enemy were stationed, I directed 
that when they heard the discharge of a musket, the 
land force should enter the small part of the city that 
remained to be taken, and drive the enemy toward 
the water, where the brigantines lay. I enjoined much 
upon them to look for Guatemozin, and endeavor to 
take him alive, as in that case the war would cease. 
I then ascended a terrace, and, before the combat be- 
gan, addressed some of the nobles whom I knew, 
asking them for what reason their sovereign refused 
to come to me when they were reduced to such ex- 
tremities, adding that there was no good cause why 
they should all perish, and that they should go and 
call him, and have no fears. 

"Two of the principal nobles then went to call the 
emperor. After a short time they returned, accom- 
panied by one of the most considerable of their per- 
sonages, Ciquacoacin, a captain and governor over 
them all, by whose counsels the whole affairs of the 
war were conducted. I received him with great kind- 
ness, that he might feel perfectly secure and free from 
apprehensions. At last he said that 'the emperor 
would by no means come into my presence, prefer- 
ring rather to die; that his determination grieved him 
much, but that I must do whatever I desired.' When 


I saw that this was his settled purpose, I told the 
noble messenger to return to his friends, and prepare 
for the renewal of the war, which I was resolved to 
continue until their destruction was complete. So he 

"More than five hours had been spent in these 
conferences, during which time many of the inhab- 
itants were crowded together upon piles of the dead; 
some were on the water, and others were seen swim- 
ming about or drowning in the part of the lake 
where the canoes were lying, which was of consider- 
able extent. Indeed, so excessive were the sufferings 
of the people, that no one could imagine how they 
were able to sustain them; and an immense multi- 
tude of men, women, and children were compelled to 
seek refuge with us, many of whom, in their eager- 
ness to reach us, threw themselves into the water, 
and were drowned among the mass of dead bodies. 
It appeared that the number of persons who had 
perished, either from drinking salt water, from famine 
or pestilence, amounted altogether to more than fifty 
thousand souls. 

"In order to conceal their necessitous condition 
from our knowledge, the bodies of the dead were not 
thrown into the water, lest the brigantines should 
come in contact with them, nor were they taken away 
from the places where they had died, lest we should 
see them about the city; but in those streets where 


they had perished we found heaps of dead bodies so 
frequent, that a person passing could not avoid step- 
ping upon them; and when the people of the city 
flocked toward us, I caused Spaniards to be stationed 
through all the streets to prevent our allies from de- 
stroying the wretched persons who came out in such 
multitudes. I also charged the captains of our allies 
to forbid, by all means in their power, the slaughter 
of these fugitives; yet all my precautions were in- 
sufficient to prevent it, and that day more than fifteen 
thousand lost their lives. At the same time, the bet- 
ter classes and the warriors of the city were pent up 
within narrow limits, confined to a few terraces and 
houses, or sought refuge on the water; but no con- 
cealment prevented our seeing their miserable condi- 
tion and weakness with sufficient clearness. 

"As the evening approached and no sign of their 
surrender appeared, I ordered the two pieces of ord- 
nance to be leveled toward the enemy, to try their 
effect in causing them to yield; but they suffered 
greater injury when full license was given to the allies 
to attack them than from the cannon, although 
the latter did them some mischief. As this was of 
little avail, I ordered the musketry to be fired. When 
a certain angular space, where they were crowded 
together, was gained, and some of the people thrown 
into the water, those that remained there yielded 
themselves prisoners without a struggle. 


"In the mean time, the brigantines suddenly entered 
that part of the lake, and broke through the midst of 
the fleet of canoes, the warriors who were in them 
not daring to make any resistance. It pleased God 
that the captain of a brigantine, named Garci Holguin, 
came up behind a canoe in which there seemed to be 
persons of distinction; and when the archers, who 
were stationed in the bow of the brigantine, took 
aim at those in the canoe, they made a signal that 
the emperor was there, that the men might not dis- 
charge their arrows. Instantly our people leaped into 
the canoe, and seized in it Guatemozin and the Lord 
of Tacuba, together with other distinguished persons 
whc accompanied the emperor. 

"Immediately after this occurrence, Garci Holguin, 
the captain, delivered to me, on a terrace adjoining 
the lake, where I was standing, Guatemozin, with 
other noble prisoners. As I, without showing any 
asperity of manner, bade him sit down, he came up 
to me and said, in his own tongue, 

"'That he had done all that was incumbent on 
him in defense of himself and his people, until he 
was reduced to his present condition; that now I 
might do with him as I pleased.' He then laid his 
hand on a poniard that I wore, telling me to strike 
him to the heart. 

" I spoke encouragingly to him, and bade him 
have no fears. Thus, the emperor being taken a 

M. of H.— XV— 15 


prisoner, the war ceased at this point, which it 
pleased God our Lord to bring to a conclusion on 
Tuesday, St. Hippolytus's day, the thirteenth of Au- 
gust, 1 521; so that from the day in which the city 
was first invested, the 3d of May in that year, 
until it was taken, seventy-five days had elapsed, 
during which time your majesty will see what labors, 
dangers, and calamities your subjects endured, and 
their deeds afford the best evidence how much they 
exposed their lives." 

For three hundred years, while Mexico remained 
under Spanish rule, the anniversary of this victory 
was regularly celebrated with all the accompaniments 
of national rejoicing. 


The Conquest Consummated. 

Discovery of the Pacific. — Cortez's elation. — Cortez's dispatch. — He sends to 
take possession of the coast. — The exploring parties. — Release of the 
captives. — Rebuilding the city. — Power of Cortez. — Progress of affairs in 
Spain. — Warrant against Cortez. — The commissioner. — His reception. — 
Tapia's weak points. — His return. — Cortez's dispatch. — Cortez's account 
of the arrival of Tapia. — Cortez unable to visit Tapia. — Father Urrea 
dispatched to Vera Cruz. — Cortez prepares to go to Vera Cruz, but is dis- 
suaded. — Embassadors to Tapia. — Delay asked. — Departure of Tapia. — 
Advice respecting Tapia. — Reasons for not sending letters by him. — In- 
surrection. — Punishment. — Severe chastisement. — Nuuo de Guzman. — 
Influence at court. — Charges against Cortez. — Cortez's defense to the 
charges against him. — Defense triumphant. — Cortez appointed governor. 

— His powers.— better from the emperor. — Depression of his enemies. — 
Unfair dealings. — Escape from remonstrants. — Expedition to Zapoteca. 

— Great peril. — They abandon the scheme. — Progress of the new city. — 
Cortez's palace. — Religious zeal. — Catholic priests. — Approach to the- 
metropolis. — Reception by Cortez. — Success of the missionaries. — Col- 
onies. — Arrival of Donna Cataliua. — Death of Catalina. — Suspicions of 

With zeal and energy which never slept, Cor- 
tez fitted out several expeditions to ex- 
plore the country, to study its geography, 
and to ascertain its resources. One party, ascending 
the heights of the Cordilleras, gazed with delight upon 
the placid expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and, descend- 
ing the western declivity, planted the cross upon the 
sandy shores of that hitherto unknown sea. Cortez 
was exceedingly elated with this discovery, for he 

(22 7 ) 


considered it another bribe with which to purchase 
the favor of his sovereign. He immediately made ar- 
rangements for establishing a colony on the Pacific 
shores, and ordered four vessels to be built to prose- 
cute farther discoveries. He lost no time in transmit- 
ting to the emperor the tidings of this great achieve- 

"I have received, most powerful sire," he wrote, 
"some account of another sea to the south, and 
learned that at two or three points it was twelve, 
thirteen, and fourteen days' journey from this city. 
The information gave me much pleasure, for it ap- 
peared to me that the discovery would prove a great 
and signal service to your majesty, especially as all 
who possess any knowledge or experience in naviga- 
tion to the Indies have considered it certain that the 
discovery of the South Sea in these parts would bring 
to light many islands rich in gold, pearls, precious 
stones, and spiceries, together with many other un- 
known and choice productions. The same has been 
affirmed also by persons versed in learning and skilled 
in the science of cosmography. With such views, 
and a desire that I might render your majesty a dis- 
tinguished and memorable service in this matter, I 
dispatched four Spaniards, two by one route and two 
by another, who, having obtained the necessary in- 
formation as to the course they were to take, set out, 
accompanied by several of our allies as guides and 


companions. I ordered them not to stop until they 
had reached the sea, and when they had discovered 
it, to take actual and corporal possession in the name 
of your majesty. 

"One of these parties traveled about one hundred 
and thirty leagues, through many fine provinces, with- 
out encountering any obstacles, and arrived at the sea, 
of which they took possession, and, in token thereof, 
set up crosses along the coast. After some days they 
returned with an account of their discovery, and in- 
formed me very particularly concerning it. They 
brought with them several of the natives from that 
quarter, together with good specimens of gold from 
the mines found in the provinces through which they 
passed, which, with other specimens, I now send to 
your majesty. 

"The other party were absent somewhat longer, 
for they took a different course, and traveled one hun- 
dred and fifty leagues before they reached the sea, of 
which they also took possession, and brought me a full 
account of the coast, with some of the natives of the 
country. I received the strangers in both parties gra- 
ciously, and having informed them of the great power 
of your majesty, and made them some presents, I 
suffered them to depart on their return to their own 
country, and they went away much gratified. 

"In my former relation, most catholic sire, I in- 


formed your majesty that, at the time when the In- 
dians defeated me, and first drove us out of the city 
of Tenochtitlan, all the provinces subject to that city 
rebelled against your majesty and made war upon us; 
and your majesty will see, by this relation, how we 
have reduced to your royal service most of the prov- 
inces that proved rebellious. 

"As the city," he continues, "of Tenochtitlan was 
a place of great celebrity and distinction, and ever 
memorable, it appeared to me that it would be well 
to build another town upon its ruins. 1 therefore dis- 
tributed the ground among the proposed inhabitants, 
and appointed alcaldes and regidores in the name of 
your majesty, according to the custom of your 
realms; and while the houses were going up, we de- 
termined to abide in the city of Cuyoacan, where we 
at present are. It is now four or five months since 
the rebuilding of the city was commenced, and it is al- 
ready very handsome. Your majesty may be assured 
that it will go on increasing to such a degree that, as 
it was formerly the capital and mistress of all these 
provinces, it will still be so hereafter. It is built so 
far and will be completed in such a manner as to 
render the Spaniards strong and secure, greatly supe- 
rior to the natives, and wholly unassailable by them." 

The power of Cortez was now unlimited. The 
whole native population was virtually his slaves. He 
had the address to secure the friendly co-operation of 


the principal chiefs, and the Indians, in any numbers 
which he required, were driven by them to their re- 
luctant toil. The Spaniards assumed the office of 
overseers, while the natives performed all the menial 
and painful labor. Timber was cut and dragged by 
the men of burden from the adjacent forests, and 
from the ruins of Tenochtitlan the new and beautiful 
city of Mexico rose as by magic. 

Charles V., King of Spain and Emperor of Ger- 
many, was overwhelmed by the cares of his enor- 
mous empire. The scenes transpiring far away in 
the wilderness of the New World, important as they 
were, could claim but a small share of his attention. 
Velasquez succeeded in gaining very influential friends 
at court, and plied all his energies, with untiring 
diligence, to secure the disgrace of Cortez. Pride, 
ambition, and revenge alike inspired him to work, if 
possible, the ruin of the bold adventurer who had 
set his power at defiance. The sovereign was at this 
time in Germany, and the reigns of government in 
Spain were temporarily placed in the hands of Adrian, 
who had been private tutor of the emperor. 

Influenced by the coadjutors of Velasquez, Adrian 
issued a warrant, signed at Burgos on the nth of 
April, 1 52 1, which, after recapitulating the offenses of 
which Cortez had been guilty against the majesty of 
the Spanish government, appointed a commissioner to 
repair to Mexico, seize the person of Cortez, suspend 


him from his functions, sequestrate his property, and 
bring him to trial upon the weighty charges con- 
tained in the indictment. 

The accomplishment of a task so difficult required 
a man of consummate tact and energy; but, unfortu- 
nately, the agent selected was totally unqualified for 
his task. Christoval de Tapia, the appointed com- 
missioner, was a feeble, fussy old man, a govern- 
ment inspector of metals in Saint Domingo. He 
landed at Vera Cruz in December, with his commis- 
sion in his hand. The authorities there, quite de- 
voted to Cortez, and fully aware that in his fall their 
fortunes must also decay, threw every obstacle in 
their power in the path of Tapia. They disputed his 
credentials and, by innumerable embarrassments, pre- 
vented him from entering the interior. 

Cortez, on the other hand, while cordially accept- 
ing this important co-operation on the part of his 
friends, the more valuable since it did not involve 
him in any responsibility, wrote to Tapia a letter full 
of expressions of courtesy, and of veneration for the 
authority of the emperor. The imbecile old man soon 
became entangled in a labyrinth of diplomacy from 
which he knew not how to extricate himself. He 
had not sufficient force of character to cut the tangled 
threads. It is said that every one has his weak point. 
Love of money was the great frailty of Tapia. United 
with this there was great timidity of character. Cor- 


tez, with his accustomed tact, discovered the peculi- 
arities of the man, and, with his habitual adroitness, 
assailed him where his armor was weak. The old 
man's fears were assailed with threats, and his avarice 
was approached by bribes, and he very soon capitu- 
lated. Re-embarking in his ship, he returned to His- 
paniola, leaving Cortez in undisputed authority. 

This affair alarmed Cortez exceedingly. The ac- 
count which he himself gives of it in his dispatch to 
the emperor is so curious and characteristic of the 
man, that we must give it in his own words. The 
dispatch itself will be more interesting and valuable 
than any narrative we might give of the event. Upon 
the departure of Tapia, Cortez immediately sent dep- 
uties to the emperor with a glowing account of his 
new discoveries and conquests, with many rich gifts, 
and the promise of immense future contributions. He 
gave, as it were incidentally, an account of the mis- 
sion of Tapia, explained with great naivete the rea- 
sons of its failure, and implored anew that he might 
be intrusted with the government of the wide realms 
which his skill and the valor of his followers had at- 
tached to the Spanish crown. 

"While engaged in this business," he writes, "I 
received accounts from Vera Cruz of the arrival at 
that, port of a ship, in which came Christoval de Ta- 
pia, smelting inspector in the island of Hispaniola. 
The next day I had a letter from him, informing me 


that the object of his coming to the country was to 
assume the government of it by your majesty's com- 
mand, and that he had brought with him his royal 
commission, which he should nowhere exhibit until 
ke saw us, but hoped this would be soon. As, how- 
ever, the horses he had brought were affected by the 
voyage, he was not able to set out immediately, and 
begged that we would direct how the interview 
should take place, whether by his coming here, or by 
my going to the sea-coast. 

"As soon as I had received his letter, I answered 
it, saying that I was much pleased with his arrival; 
that no one could come provided with an order from 
his majesty to assume the government of these parts 
with whom I should be better pleased, both on ac- 
count of the acquaintance that existed between us, 
and the neighborly intercourse we had enjoyed to- 
gether in the island of Hispaniola. 

"Tranquillity not being firmly established in this 
quarter, and any novelty being likely to estrange the 
natives, I begged Father Urrea, who has been present 
in all my labors, and who knew well the situation of 
affairs to the present moment, and by whose coming 
your majesty's service has been promoted, and our- 
selves benefited by his spiritual teachings and coun- 
sels, to undertake the task of meeting the said Tapia, 
and of examining the orders of your majesty. Since 
he knew better than any one what the royal interests, 


as well as those of this country, required, I requested 
that he would give such directions to the said Tapia as 
he deemed most proper, from which he knew I would 
not deviate in the least degree. 

"I made this request in the presence of your maj- 
esty's treasurer, who joined his solicitations to mine. 
He accordingly departed for the town of Vera Cruz, 
where the said Tapia was; and in order that suitable 
attentions might be paid to the inspector, either in 
the town or wherever they should meet, 1 dispatched 
with the father two or three respectable persons from 
my companions, and when they had gone I waited 
the issue. In the mean time, I employed myself in 
regulating the affairs of my command, and in such a 
way as best to promote your majesty's interests, and 
the peace and security of these parts. 

"In ten or twelve days after, the magistrate and 
municipal authority of Vera Cruz wrote me that the 
said Tapia had exhibited the orders of your majesty, 
and of your governors acting in the royal name, 
which they had treated with all suitable reverence; 
but that as to the execution of the orders, they had 
answered that, since the most of the government 
were with me, having been concerned in the siege of 
the city, they should be informed of them, and in the 
mean time they would do whatever the service of 
your majesty and the good of the country required. 
This answer, they added, was received by the said 


Tapia with great displeasure, and he had since at- 
tempted some scandalous things. 

"Although this answer occasioned me some re- 
gret, I answered them, and begged and entreated that 
they would look chiefly to the service of your majesty, 
and endeavor to content the said Tapia, giving him 
no occasion for making a disturbance; and that I was 
about going to meet him, and to comply with what- 
ever your majesty commanded, and the most your 
service required. 

''As 1 was now preparing to depart, the members 
of the council entreated me, with many protestations, 
not to go, as all this province of Mexico, having been 
but a short time reduced, might revolt in my ab- 
sence, whence much injury would be done to your 
majesty's service, and great disturbance caused in the 
country. They also urged many other arguments and 
reasons why it was inexpedient for me to leave the 
city at present; and added that they, with the au- 
thority of the council, would go to Vera Cruz, where 
the said Tapia resided, examine the orders of your 
majesty, and perform all that the royal service de- 
manded. As it seemed so essential to our safety that 
the said councilors should go, I wrote by them to 
Tapia informing him of what had passed, and that I 
had authorized Gonsalvo de Sandoval, Diego de Soto, 
and Diego de Valdenebro, who were then in the 
town of Vera Cruz, jointly with the council of Vera 


Cruz and the members of the other town councils, to 
see and perform whatever the service of your majesty 
and the good of the country required. 

"When they reached the place where the said 
Tapia was, who had already set out on his journey 
to this city, accompanied by Father Pedro, they re- 
quested him to return, and all went together to the 
city of Zempoalla, where Christoval de Tapia pre- 
sented your majesty's orders, which all received with 
the respect due to your majesty. In regard to their 
execution, they said that they asked some delay of 
your majesty as demanded by the royal interests, for 
causes and reasons contained in their petition, and 
more fully set forth therein. After some other acts 
and proceedings between the inspector Tapia and the 
deputies, he embarked in his own ship, as he had 
been requested to do, since from his remaining, and 
having published that he had come as governor and 
captain of these parts, there would have been dis- 

"The coming of the said Tapia, and his want of 
knowledge respecting the country and its inhabitants, 
had already excited sedition, and his stay would have 
led to serious evils if God had not interposed to pre- 
vent it. Much greater service would have been ren- 
dered to your majesty if, while he was in the island 
of Hispaniola, instead of coming hither, he had first 
advised with your majesty. The said Tapia had been 


often advised by the admiral, judges, and other offi- 
cials of your majesty residing in the island of Hispaniola 
not to come into these parts until your majesty had 
first been informed of all that had taken place here, 
and on this account they had prohibited his coming 
under certain penalties, which prohibition, however, 
by means in his power, looking more at his indi- 
vidual interest than the service of your majesty, he 
had succeeded in getting removed. 

"I have prepared this account of every thing in 
relation to this matter for your majesty, because, 
when the said Tapia departed, neither the deputies 
nor myself drew up any statement, as he would not 
have been a suitable bearer of our letters; and also 
that your majesty may see and believe that, by not 
receiving the said Tapia, your majesty was well 
served, as will be more fully established whenever it 
shall be necessary." 

While thus engaged, Cortez received intelligence 
that the province of Panuco was in a state of insur- 
rection. As most of his captains were absent on 
various expeditions, he promptly placed himself at the 
head of a force of one hundred and thirty horsemen, 
two hundred and fifty infantry, and ten thousand Mex- 
icans, and marched to inflict such punishment upon 
the rebels as should intimidate all others from a sim- 
ilar attempt. 

The two hostile bodies soon met. According to 


the estimate of the Spaniards, the number of the enemy 
amounted to above seventy thousand warriors. "But 
k was God's will," the historian records, "that we 
should obtain a victory, with such a slaughter of the 
rebels as deprived them of all thought of making any 
head for the present." Cortez ravaged the country, 
mercilessly crushing all who offered the slightest re- 
sistance. Having thus quenched in blood the flicker- 
ing flame of independence, he returned victorious to 
the metropolis. 

Here he was informed that some of the inhabitants 
of the neighboring mountains had manifested a restive 
spirit, and had caused disturbance in other peaceable 
districts. Sternly he marched to chastise them. The 
punishment was prompt and severe; thousands were 
shot down, and their chiefs were hanged. "They 
were punished," said Diaz, "with fire and sword; 
and greater misfortunes befell them when Nuno de 
Guzman came to be their governor, for he made them 
all slaves, and sold them in the islands." 

The father of Cortez, who was in Spain, and who 
was a man of much elevation of character, now came 
forward to aid his son with his influence at court. 
Implacable enemies were intriguing against the bold 
Spanish adventurer in the court of Charles V., who 
had returned from his long absence in Germany, and 
was now at Madrid. Don Martin Cortez had secured 
the co-operation of a powerful nobleman, the Duke 


of Bejar. The young monarch, bewildered by the ac- 
cusations which were brought against Cortez on the 
one hand, and by the defense which was urged upon 
the other, referred the whole matter to a commission 
specially appointed to investigate the subject. The 
charges which were brought against him were serious 
and very strongly sustained by evidence. 

1. He had seized rebelliously, and finally destroyed, 
the fleet intrusted to him by Governor Velasquez, 
whose authority he was bound to obey. 

2. He had usurped powers in contempt of the 
authority of his lawful sovereign. 

3. He had made war upon Narvaez, who had been 
sent with full authority to supersede him, and had 
slain many of his companions. He had also refused 
to receive Tapia, though he was invested with the 
authority of the crown. 

4. He had cruelly, and in dishonor of the Spanish 
name, put Guatemozin to the torture. 

5. He had remitted but a small part of the treas- 
ures obtained to the crown, squandering vast sums in 
schemes to promote his own aggrandizement. 

6. His whole system of procedure was one of 
violence, extortion, and cruelty. 

It was urged in defense, 

I. Two thirds of the cost of the expedition, nom- 


inally fitted out by Velasquez, were defrayed by Cor- 

2. The interests of the crown required that colonies 
should be established in Mexico. Velasquez was in- 
vested with power to traffic only, not to found col- 
onies; consequently, Cortez, in the discharge of his 
duty, was bound to establish colonies, and to send 
to the crown for the ratification of the deed, as he 
had done. 

3. It was the wish of Cortez to meet Narvaez 
amicably; but that commander, assuming a hostile at- 
titude, had compelled Cortez to do the same. The 
treatment of Tapia was defended as in the dispatch 
which Cortez had transmitted to the emperor. 

4. The torture of Gautemozin was declared to have 
been, not the act of Cortez, but of one of his officers, 
who was driven to it by the clamors of the soldiers. 

5. It was clearly proved that Cortez had trans- 
mitted more than one fifth of the treasure obtained to 
the crown. It was also pretty conclusively proved 
that his administration was, in general, characterized 
by far-reaching sagacity. 

The defense was triumphant. Cortez was acquit- 
ted, his acts were confirmed, and he was appointed 
governor, captain-general, and chief justice of the im- 
mense empire which he had subjugated. The power 
with which he was invested was vast — almost un- 

M. of H.— XV— 16 


limited. He was authorized to appoint to all offices, 
civil and military. He could also banish from the 
country any persons whose conduct should be dis- 
pleasing to him. A large salary was conferred upon 
him, that he might maintain the splendor becoming 
his rank. His officers were richly rewarded. The 
emperor even condescended to write a letter to the 
little army in Mexico with his own hand, applauding 
the heroism of the soldiers and the grandeur of their 
chieftain. This was one of the greatest of the vic- 
tories of Cortez. The depression of his enemies was 
equal to his own elation. Velasquez was crushed by 
the blow. He survived the tidings through a few 
months of gloom, and then sank into the grave, the 
only refuge for those weary of the world. 

When the envoys arrived in Mexico with the de- 
cision of the court, they were received with universal 
rejoicing. Every soldier of Cortez felt that his fortune 
was now made. But their intrepid commander was 
not the man for repose. New discoveries were to be 
urged, new tribes subjugated, and far-distant regions 
explored. Murmurs loud and deep soon ascended 
from the disaffected, who now wished to repose from 
toil in the enjoyment of their wealth and honors. 
Here is a specimen of their complaints: 

"I will now relate," says Diaz, "what Cortez 
did, which I call very unfair. All those who were 


the dependents of great men, who flattered him and 
told him pleasing things, he loaded with favors. Not 
that I blame him for being generous, for there was 
enough for all; but I say that he ought to have first 
considered those who served his majesty, and whose 
valor and blood made him what he was. But it is 
useless detailing our misfortunes, and how he treated 
us like vassals, and how we were obliged to take to 
our old trade of expeditions and battles; for, though 
he forgot us in his distribution of property, he never 
failed to call upon us when he wanted our assistance. 
When we went to the general with the request that 
he would give us some part of the property which 
his majesty had ordered that we should receive, he 
told us, and swore to it, that he would provide for 
us all, and not do as he had done, for which he was 
very sorry. As if we were to be satisfied with 
promises and smooth words!" 

Cortez had a very effectual way of escaping from 
such remonstrants. He immediately dispatched such 
men as were troublesome on some important expe- 
dition, where all their energies of mind and body 
would be engrossed in surmounting the difficulties 
which they would be called to encounter. A man 
by the name of Rangel, who had some considerable 
influence, was complaining bitterly. Cortez immedi- 
ately decided that the distant province of the Zapote- 


cans was in a threatening attitude, and needed look- 
ing after. They were a fierce people, dwelling 
among almost inaccessible cliffs, where no horse 
could climb and no artillery be dragged. From such 
an enterprise it was little probable that the trouble- 
some man would ever return. He was consequently 
honored with the command of the expedition. For 
apparently the same reason, Bernal Diaz, whose com- 
plaints we have just read, was appointed to accom- 
pany the detachment. 

The forlorn party entered boldly the defiles of the 
-mountains, and wading through marshes, and strug- 
gling through ravines, and clambering over rocks, 
with the utmost difficulty and peril penetrated the 
savage region. The natives, nimble as the chamois, 
leaped from crag to crag, whistling an insulting de- 
fiance with a peculiarly shrill note, with which every 
rock seemed vocal. Stones were showered down 
upon them, and immense rocks, torn from their beds, 
leaped crashing over their path. Their peril soon 
became great, and it was so evidently impossible to 
accomplish any important result, that they abandoned 
the expedition, nearly all wounded, and many having 
been killed. 

During the period of four years Cortez devoted 
himself with untiring zeal to the promotion of the in- 
terests of the colony. The new city of Mexico rose 
rapidly, with widened streets and with many build- 


ings of much architectural beauty. Where the mas- 
sive temple once stood, dedicated to the war-god of 
the Aztecs, and whose altars were ever polluted with 
human sacrifices, a majestic temple was reared for the 
worship of the true God. Cortez erected for himself 
a gorgeous palace fronting on the great square. It 
was built of hewn stone. All the houses constructed 
for the Spaniards were massive stone buildings, so 
built as to answer the double purpose of dwellings 
and fortresses. 

The zeal of Cortez for the conversion of the na- 
tives continued unabated. In addition to the spacious 
cathedral, where the imposing rites of the Catholic 
Church were invested with all conceivable splendor, 
thirty other churches were provided for the natives, 
who had now become exceedingly pliant to the 
wishes of the conqueror. Father Olmedo watched 
over the interests of religion with great purity of pur- 
pose and with unwearied devotion until his death. 
Twelve Catholic priests were sent from Spain. Be- 
nighted as they were in that dark age, the piety of 
many of these men can hardly be questioned. Cor- 
tez received them with great distinction. Immediately 
upon being informed of their arrival at Vera Cruz, he 
ordered the road to Mexico to be put in order, to 
render their journey easy, and houses to be furnished, 
at proper distances, with refreshments for their ac- 
commodation. The inhabitants of all the towns along 


their route were ordered to meet them with proces- 
sions and music, and all demonstrations of reverence 
and joy. As they approached the metropolis, Cortez, 
at the head of a brilliant cavalcade, which was fol- 
lowed by a vast procession bearing crucifixes and 
lighted tapers, set out to receive them. The Catholic 
missionaries appeared with bare feet and in the most 
humble garb. Cortez dismounted, and, advancing to 
the principal father of the fraternity, bent one knee 
to the ground in token of reverence, and kissed his 
coarse and threadbare robe. The natives gazed with 
amazement upon this act of humiliation on the part 
of their haughty conqueror, and ever after regarded 
the priests with almost religious adoration. 

When conversion consists in merely inducing men 
to conform to some external ceremony, while the 
heart remains unchanged, it is easily accomplished. 
The missionaries, with great zeal, embarked in the 
enterprise of establishing the Catholic religion in every 
village of the subjugated empire. They were emi- 
nently successful, and in a few years almost every 
vestige of the ancient idolatry had disappeared from 

Cortez did every thing in his power to induce the 
natives to return to the capital. He introduced the 
mechanic arts of Europe, and all the industrial imple- 
ments of that higher civilization. The streets were 


soon again thronged with a busy population, and the 
Indian and the Spaniard, oblivious of past scenes of 
deadly strife, mingled together promiscuously in peace- 
ful and picturesque confusion. 

Many colonies were established in different parts 
of the country, and settlers were invited over from 
Old Spain by liberal grants of land, and by many 
municipal privileges. 

In the midst of these important transactions, while 
Cortez was living quietly with the amiable Marina, 
who had borne him a son, a ship arrived at Vera 
Cruz bringing Donna Catalina, the wife of the way- 
ward adventurer. This lady, accompanied by her 
brother, weary of the solitude of her plantation, where 
she had now been left for many years, came in search 
* of her unfaithful spouse. Cortez made great preten- 
sions to religion. It was his crowning glory that he 
was the defender of the faith. It would have been 
altogether too great a scandal to have repudiated his 
faithful wife. 

"Cortez," says Bernal Diaz, "was very sorry for 
their coming, but he put the best face upon it, and 
received them with great pomp and rejoicing." In 
three months from this time the unhappy Donna 
Catalina died of an asthma. Her death was so evidently 
a relief to Cortez, and so manifestly in accordance 
with his wishes, that many suspicions were excited 


that she had fallen by the hand of violence. Though 
Cortez had many enemies to accuse him of the mur- 
der of his wife, there is no evidence whatever that 
he was guilty. Cortez had many and great faults, 
but a crime of this nature seems to be quite foreign 
to his character. The verdict of history in reference 
to this charge has been very cordially Not proven. 

The Expedition to Honduras. 

The natives reduced to slavery. — I,aws and institutions. — Colony at Hondu- 
ras. — Olid wrecked and taken prisoner. — Cortez starts for Honduras. — 
Diaz's account. — The two captives. — Difficulties to be encountered. — 
Marina married to Xamariilo. — Don Martin Cortez. — Demonstrations of 
homage. — Complaints of Diaz. — Scarcity of provisions. — Energy and 
forethought.— Construction of canoes. — The slough. — Foraging parties. 

— The tangled wilderness. — The Indian path. — The cannibal chiefs. — 
Their punishment. — Hostile attitude. — The soldiers ravenous. — Influ- 
ence of the priests. — Care for the officers. — Plot against two chiefs. — 
The chiefs executed. — Their heroism. — Opinions of the Spaniards. — 
Night wanderings — Plenty and want. — The terrible march. — New em- 
barrassments. — Famine. — They reach Taica. — Humility of Diaz. — 
Cortez finds there is no insurrection to be quelled. — Exploring tour. — 
The brigantines. — Submission. — Present to the king. — Disappoint- 
ment of Cortez. — The dispatches. — Bad news. — Report of the death of 
Cortez. — Troubles in Spain. — The attempted voyage.— Fruitless en- 
deavors to recall his friends. — Commissions. — The usurpers imprisoned. 

— Poor health of Cortez. — His return to Mexico. 

The great object of the Spanish adventurers was 
to extort gold from the natives. The proud 
cavaliers would not work, and the natives 
were not willing to surrender the fruits of their toil to 
support their haughty conquerors in splendor. Cortez 
consequently, though reluctantly, doomed them to 
slavery. They were driven by the lash to unpaid toil. 
It was an outrage defended only by the despotic as- 
sumptions of avarice. The Tlascalans, however, in 



acknowledgment of their services as allies of the Span- 
iards, were exempt from this degradation. In all 
#ther parts the wretched natives toiled under their 
task-masters, in the fields and in the mines, urged by 
the sole stimulus of the lash. The country thus be- 
came impoverished and beggared, and masters and 
slaves sank together. 

Cortez had now reduced, in subjection to the 
crown of Spain, an extent of country reaching along 
the Atlantic coast twelve hundred miles, and extend- 
ing fifteen hundred miles on the Pacific shore. With 
energetic genius which has rarely been surpassed, the 
conqueror established laws and institutions, many of 
them eminently wise, for this vast realm. 

Cortez had sent one of his captains, Christoval de 
Olid, to Honduras, to found a Spanish colony there. 
This intrepid man, giddy with the possession of vast 
power, and encouraged by the success with which 
Cortez had thrown off his dependence upon Velasquez, 
determined to imitate his example, and assert inde- 
pendence of all authority save that of the Spanish 
crown. But Cortez was the last man to allow his 
authority to be thus trifled with. He immediately 
sent an expedition under Francisco Las Casas, with 
five ships and a hundred veteran Spanish soldiers to 
arrest the disobedient officer. With pennants flying, 
Las Casas sailed from Vera Cruz, and was rapidly 
borne by prosperous gales around the immense prom- 


ontory of Yucatan, a voyage of nearly two thousand 
miles, to the bay in Honduras named the Triumph of 
the Cross, where Olid had established his post. Olid 
opposed his landing, but, as many of his soldiers 
chanced to be absent in the interior, he could present 
no effectual resistance. 

After a short battle, Olid, hoping for the speedy 
return of his absent forces, applied for a truce. Las 
Casas weakly consented; but that same night a tem- 
pest arose which wrecked all his ships, and thirty of 
the crew perished in the waves. Las Casas and all 
the remainder of his party, drenched and exhausted, 
were taken prisoners. Olid exulted greatly in this 
unanticipated good fortune; and, considering his foe 
utterly powerless, released the men upon their taking 
the oath of allegiance to him, and retained Las Casas 
surrounded with the courtesies of friendly and hos- 
pitable captivity. After a time, however, Las Casas 
succeeded in forming a conspiracy, and Olid was 
seized and beheaded. 

Cortez had heard of the wreck of the ships. No 
other tidings reached him. But disaster ever added 
strength to his energies. Vigorously he fitted out an- 
other expedition and headed it himself. Leaving a 
strong garrison to guard the city of Mexico, and ap- 
pointing two confidential officers to act as deputies 
during his absence, he prepared to march across the 
country, a perilous journey of five hundred leagues, 


through a wilderness of mountains, rivers, lakes, and 
forests. Unknown and doubtless hostile tribes peopled 
the whole region. It was one of the boldest of the 
many bold adventures of this extraordinary man. He 
has given a minute narrative of the march in a dis- 
patch to Charles V. Bernal Diaz also, who accom- 
panied the expedition, has given an interesting yet 
gossiping recital of all its wild adventures. 

It was on the 12th of October, 1524, that Cortez 
commenced his march almost due south from the city 
of Mexico. His force consisted, when he started from 
Mexico, of about one hundred Spanish horsemen and 
fifty infantry, together with about three thousand 
Mexican soldiers. Apprehending that Guatemozin and 
the cacique of Tacuba, from their strong influence 
over the natives, might excite disturbance during his 
absence, he took them as captives with him. Several 
Catholic priests were taken to conduct the services of 
religion, and to convert the heathen tribes. The im- 
perial retinue, for Cortez now moved with the pomp 
of an emperor, was conducted on the grandest scale 
the time and the occasion would admit. A large herd 
of swine followed the army a day's journey in the rear. 
Most of the food, however, was to be collected by 
the way. 

By the aid of a rude map and Indian guides, Cor- 
tez designed to direct his steps across the neck of 
the broad peninsula of Yucatan to the head of the 


Bay of Honduras. For many days their path con- 
ducted along a low and marshy country intersected by 
innumerable streams. Some they were able to ford; 
over others their ingenious architects would speedily 
throw a bridge. Occasionally they would arrive upon 
the banks of a stream so wide and deep that many 
days would be employed in rearing a structure over 
which they could pass. Cortez, in his letter to 
Charles V., enumerating the difficulties encountered, 
states that in a distance of one hundred miles he 
found it necessary to construct no less than fifty 

The amiable Marina accompanied Cortez on this 
expedition, since her services were very essential as 
interpreter. But Cortez now, having buried his law- 
ful wife, and probably looking forward to some more 
illustrious Spanish alliance which might strengthen his 
influence at court, regarded Marina as an embarrass- 
ment. He therefore secured her marriage with a Cas- 
tilian knight, Don Juan Xamarillo. A handsome estate 
was assigned to the newly-married couple in the na- 
tive province of Marina, through which the expedi- 
tion passed on its way to Honduras. We hear of 
Marina no more. Her son, Don Martin Cortez, aided 
by the patronage of his powerful father, became one 
of the most prominent of the grandees of his native 
land. He filled many posts of opulence and honor. 
At last he was suspected of treason against the home 


government, and was shamefully put to the torture 
in the Mexican capital. 

As Cortez and his army advanced day after day 
through provinces where his renown was known, 
and where Spanish adventurers were established, he 
was received with every possible demonstration of 
homage. Triumphal arches crossed his path. Pro- 
cessions advanced to greet him. Provisions were 
brought to him in abundance. Bonfires, with their bril- 
liant blaze, cheered the night, and festivities, arranged 
with all the possible accompaniments of barbaric 
pomp, amused him by day. He arrived at the banks 
of a wide, deep, and rapid river. To his great grat- 
ification, he found that the natives had collected three 
hundred canoes, fastened two and two, to ferry his 
army across. At this place Bernal Diaz joined the 
expedition. Weary of the hardships of war, he com- 
plains bitterly that he was compelled again to un- 
dergo the fatigues of an arduous campaign. 

"The general ordered," he says, "all the settlers 
of Guacacualco who were fit for service to join his 
expedition. I have already mentioned how this colony 
was formed out of the most respectable hidalgos and 
ancient conquerors of the country and now that we 
had reason to expect to be left in quiet possession of 
our hard-earned properties, our houses and farms, we 
were obliged to undertake a hostile expedition to the 
distance of fifteen hundred miles, and which took up 


the time of two and a half years; but we dared not 
say no, neither would it avail us. We therefore 
armed ourselves, and, mounting our horses, joined the 
expedition, making, in the whole, above two hundred 
and fifty veterans, of whom one hundred and thirty 
were cavalry, besides many Spaniards newly arrived 
from Europe." 

But as they marched resolutely along, week after 
week, over mountains, through morasses, and across 
rivers, the country became more wild and savage, the 
natives more shy, and provisions less abundant. 
Several days were often occupied in constructing a 
bridge to cross a river. Scouts were sent out upon 
either wing of the army foraging for food. The 
natives fled often from their villages, carrying 
their food with them. Famine began to stare them 
in the face. Sickness diminished the ranks, and 
emaciate men, haggard and way-worn, tottered pain- 
fully along the rugged ways. 

But the indefatigable energy and wonderful fore- 
sight of Cortez saved the army. He seemed to have 
provided for every emergency which mortal sagacity 
could anticipate. One day the starving army, almost 
in despair, came to the banks of a large river. The 
broad current rolled many leagues through a pathless 
wilderness, and emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. 
The army, to its great surprise, found fifty large ca- 
noes in a little sheltered bay, laden with provisions, 


and awaiting its arrival. The river was the Tabasco. 
At its mouth there was an important Spanish colony. 
Cortez had foreseen the want at that point, and pro- 
vided the timely supply. 

After resting here for a few days to recruit, the 
army continued its march, and soon came to a river 
so wide and deep that they could not bridge it. 
Here they remained four days, while every skillful 
hand was employed constructing canoes. It then re- 
quired four days more for the immense host to be 
paddled across in these frail barks. The horses swam 
after the boats, led by halters. Upon the other side 
of the river they entered upon a vast swamp, extend- 
ing for many leagues, and tangled by the dense 
growth of the tropics. They were three days floun- 
dering through this dismal slough, the horses being 
most of the time up to their girths in the morass. 

From this gloomy region of reptiles, tormenting 
insects, and mire, they emerged upon a fertile coun- 
try, where they found an abundance of Indian corn 
or maize. But the terrified inhabitants fled at their 
approach. Foraging parties were, however, sent out 
to plunder the villages of their stores. They did this 
efficiently, and the encampment was again filled with 
plenty. After a halt of three days, the soldiers, hav- 
ing replenished their knapsacks with parched corn, 
again took up their line of march. Each man carried 
food for three days. Some of the native chiefs, who 


had been enticed into the camp, deceived them with 
the assurance that in three days they would arrive at 
a large city, where they would find every needful 
supply. They soon reached the banks of a broad 
river, deep and rapid. It required three days to con- 
struct a bridge to cross it. The knapsacks were now 
empty. They were hungry and faint, and there was 
no food to be obtained. Painfully the famishing men 
toiled along another day, eating the leaves of the 
trees, and digging up roots for food. Some poisonous 
quality in this innutritious diet parched their lips and 
blistered their tongues. To add to their despair, there 
was no longer any path, and the dense underbrush, 
with tough vines and sharp thorns, impeded their 
march and lacerated their flesh. The trees towered 
above them with foliage impenetrable by the rays of 
the sun. They were wandering through a dark and 
dismal wilderness, from which there was no apparent 
outiet, compelled with sword and hatchet to cut 
every step of their way through tangled shrubs. 

Cortez, guided only by the compass and a rude 
Indian map, now manifested for the first time deep 
concern. He could not conceal from his companions 
the anxiety which oppressed him, for his army was 
literally starving. He was overheard to say, "If we 
are left to struggle another day through this wilder- 
ness, I know not what will become of us." 

Suddenly, to their great joy, they came upon an 

M. of H.— XV— 17 


Indian path. This soon conducted them to a village. 
The inhabitants had fled, but the Spaniards found 
some granaries well supplied with corn. During this 
terrible march of seven days, many perished by 
fatigue and hunger. It was also discovered that 
some of the Mexican chiefs, in their extremity, had 
seized some of the natives whom they encountered, 
and had killed and eaten them. The bodies were 
baked, in accordance with their cannibal customs, in 
ovens of heated stones under the ground. 

"Cortez," says Bernal Diaz, "severely reprehended 
all those concerned, and one of the reverend father 
Franciscans preached a holy and wise sermon on the 
occasion; after which, by way of example, the gen- 
eral caused one to be burned. Though all were 
equally guilty, yet, in the present circumstances, one 
example was judged sufficient." 

After a few days' rest the army again resumed its 
march, but pioneers were sent in advance to mark 
out the way. Their course now lay for many leagues 
through a low country, abounding in lakes, and mias- 
matic marshes, and sluggish rivers. The bayous and 
lagoons were so numerous that most of the com- 
munication from city to city was by canoes. The 
people at first assumed a hostile attitude, but soon, 
overawed by the magnitude of the force of Cortez, 
they with great obsequiousness furnished him with 
all required supplies. Still, it was an exceedingly 


difficult region for the army to traverse. Many days 
were laboriously employed in bridging the innumer- 
able streams. One wide one delayed them four days, 
and their provisions were entirely exhausted. Diaz, a 
man of tact and energy, was sent with a strong 
party to forage for the famished camp. He returned 
in the night with a hundred and thirty men of 
burden heavily laden with corn and fruit. The starv- 
ing soldiers, watching their return, rushed upon them 
like wolves; in a few moments, every particle of 
food which they had brought was devoured. Cortez 
and his officers came eagerly from their tents, but 
there was nothing left for them. 

But even in this strait, when the soldiers forgot 
entirely their generals, and even refused to save any 
for them, they did not forget their spiritual guides. 
Every soldier was anxious to share his portion with 
the reverend fathers. It speaks well for these holy 
men that they had secured such a hold upon the 
affections of these wild adventurers. Though super- 
stition doubtless had its influence, there must also 
have been, on the part of the priests, much self- 
denial and devotion to their duties. Diaz, apprehen- 
sive of the scene of plunder, had concealed at a short 
distance in the rear a few loads for the officers, 
which, he says, they went and got, with great grati- 
tude, when the soldiers were all asleep. 

For eight weary days the army now toiled along, 


struggling against hardships and hunger. Many were 
sick, many died, and not a few, in despair, deserted 
their ranks, and endeavored to find their way back 
to Mexico. Cortez, knowing full well the heroism of 
his two captives, Guatemozin and the cacique of 
Tacuba, was now very apprehensive that they might 
take advantage of his weakness, incite the natives to 
revolt, and thus secure his destruction. The peril 
was so obvious that it must have occurred to every 
mind. The Mexicans knew that the Spaniards were 
now in their power, and the Spaniards could not 
deny it. 

Under these circumstances, Guatemozin was ac- 
cused of having entered into a plot to assassinate the 
Spaniards, and then to return to Mexico and rouse 
the whole native population to arms, and drive the 
invaders from the country. There seems to have been 
but little proof to substantiate the charge; but the un- 
deniable fact that Guatemozin could now do this, 
excited to the highest degree the anxiety of the 
ever-wary Cortez. The stern conqueror, acting upon 
the principle that the end justifies the means, resolved 
to escape from this peril by the death of his imperial 
captive and the Tacuban lord. Cortez accused them 
of the crime, and, notwithstanding their protestations 
of innocence, ordered them both to be hung. A 
scaffold was immediately erected, and the victims, at- 
tended by priests, were led out to their execution. 


Both of these heroic men met their fate with dignity. 
As the monarch stood upon the scaffold, at the 
moment of his doom he turned to Cortez and said, 

"I now find in what your false promises have 
ended. It would have been better that I had fallen 
by my own hands than to have intrusted myself in 
your power. Why do you thus unjustly take my 
life ? May God demand of you this innocent blood." 

The Prince of Tacuba simply said, "I am happy 
to die by the side of my lawful sovereign." 

They were then both swung into the air, sus- 
pended from the branches of a lofty tree by the road- 
side. There are many stains resting upon the char- 
acter of Cortez, and this is not among the least. 
Diaz records, "Thus ended the lives of these two 
great men; and I also declare that they suffered their 
deaths most undeservingly; and so it appeared to us 
all, among whom there was but one opinion upon 
the subject, that it was a most unjust and cruel 

The march was now continued, but the gloom 
which ever accompanies crime weighed heavily upon 
all minds. The Mexicans were indignant and morose 
at the ignominious execution of their chiefs. The 
Spaniards were in constant fear that they would rise 
against them. Even Cortez looked haggard and 
wretched, and his companions thought that he was 
tortured by the self-accusation that he was a mur- 


derer. Difficulties were multiplied in his path. Fam- 
ine stared his murmuring army in the face. Sleep 
forsook his pillow. One night, bewildered and dis- 
tracted, he rose, and wandering in one of the heathen 
temples, fell over a wall, a distance of twelve feet, 
bruising himself severely, and cutting a deep gash in 
his head. Still they toiled along, occasionally coming 
to towns where there were granaries and abundance, 
and again, in a few days, as they could carry but 
few provisions with them, finding themselves in a 
starving condition. Every variety of suffering seemed 
to be allotted them. At one time they arrived upon 
a vast plain, spreading out for leagues, as far as the 
eye could extend, without a bush or shrub to inter- 
cept the sight. A tropical sun blazed down upon 
the panting troops with blistering heat. Many deer, 
quite tame, ranged these immense prairies. At an- 
other time they approached a large lake of shallow 
water, and upon an island in its center found a 
populous town. The soldiers waded to the island 
through the clear waters of the lake. They found 
fishes very abundant, and again had a plentiful supply 
of food. 

Thus far the weather had been fair; but now it 
changed, and a season of drenching rains commenced. 
Still, the band, impelled by their indomitable leader, 
pressed on. They now entered upon a very extraor- 
dinary region, where for leagues they toiled through 


dismal ravines, frowned upon by barren and craggy 
rocks. The ground was covered with innumerable 
flint-stones, peculiarly hard and sharp, which, like 
knives, pierced the feet of the men and the horses. 
In this frightful march nearly every horse was wounded 
and lamed, and eight perished. Many of the men 
also suffered severely. The difficulty and suffering 
were so great, that upon emerging from this rocky 
desert the army was assembled to return solemn 
thanks to God for their escape. 

But now they encountered new embarrassments. 
The streams, swollen by the rains, came roaring in 
impetuous torrents from the mountains, and the in- 
tervales and the widespreading meadows were flooded. 
One stream, foaming through enormous precipices, 
emitted a roar which was heard at the distance of 
six miles. It required three days to throw a bridge 
across this raging mountain torrent. The natives 
took advantage of this delay to flee from their homes, 
carrying with them all their provisions. Again famine 
threatened the camp. This was, perhaps, the darkest 
hour of the march. The horses were lame. The 
men were bleeding, and wayworn, and gaunt. Death 
by starvation seemed inevitable. "I own," says Diaz, 
"I never in my life felt my heart so depressed as 
when I found nothing to be had for myself or my 

Cortez, however, sent out some very efficient for- 


aging parties in all directions. Impelled by the ener- 
gies of despair, the detachment succeeded in obtaining 
food. This strengthened them until they reached a 
large town called Taica, where they again rejoiced in 
abundance. The rain still continued to fall in tor- 
rents, and the soldiers, drenched by night and by day, 
toiled along through the mire. Even Cortez lost his 
habitual placidity of temper and began to complain. 
The vain and gossiping Diaz would not have his 
readers unmindful of the eminent services he rendered 
in these emergencies. With much affected humility 
he narrates his exploits. 

"Cortez," says he, "returned me thanks for my 
conduct. But I will drop this subject; for what is 
praise but emptiness and unprofitableness, and what 
advantage is it to me that people in Mexico should 
tell me what we endured, or that Cortez should say, 
when he wanted me to go on this last expedition, 
that, next to God, it was me on whom he placed his 

They now arrived upon the banks of a river which 
led to the sea-coast. At the mouth of this river Olid 
had established one of his important settlements. A 
march of four days was required to reach the coast. 
Cortez, who was entirely ignorant of the death of 
Olid, and of the overthrow of his power, sent forward 
scouts to ascertain the state of things, as it was his 
intention to fall upon Olid by surprise at night. The 


army had moved slowly down the stream, feeding 
miserably upon nuts and roots. The scouts returned 
with the intelligence that there were no enemies to 
be met; that the insurrection was entirely quelled, 
and the colony, consisting of several scattered settle- 
ments, was in perfect subjection to the authority of 
Cortez. It is difficult to imagine the feelings with 
which this intelligence was received. Cortez must 
have felt, at least for a few moments, exceedingly 
foolish. The Herculean enterprise of a march of eight- 
een hundred miles through a pathless wilderness, 
peopled with savage foes, where many hundreds of 
his army had perished from fatigue and famine, and 
all had endured inconceivable hardships, had been 
utterly fruitless. It had been what is sometimes called 
a wild-goose chase, upon a scale of grandeur rarely 

They soon arrived at a half-starved colony at the 
mouth of the river, consisting of forty men and six 
women. The energies of Cortez were, however, un- 
abated. Foraging parties were sent out to plunder 
the natives, which was done pitilessly, without any 
apparent compunctions of conscience, as the hunters 
of wild honey destroy the bees and rob the hives. 
Cortez himself set out with a strong party on an ex- 
ploring tour, and returned after an absence of twenty- 
six days, sorely wounded in the face from a conflict 
wMch he had with the natives. If the natives as- 


sumed any attitude of resistance, they were shot like 
panthers and bears. 

Here Cortez built two brigantines, and sailed along 
the coast some three hundred miles to Truxillo. He 
established on the way, at Port Cavallo, a colony, to 
which place he ordered a division of his army to 
march. Others of the troops were to assemble at 
Naco, quite an important town, where Olid had been 
executed. Cortez, upon his arrival at Truxillo, which 
was the principal establishment of the colony in Hon- 
duras, was received by the colonists with great dis- 
tinction. The Indians in the neighborhood were 
immediately assembled, and were urged to acknowl- 
edge submission to the King of Spain, and to adopt 
the Christian religion. With wonderful pliancy, they 
acceded to both propositions. "The reverend fathers," 
says Diaz, "also preached to the Indians many holy 
things very edifying to hear." From this place Cortez 
sent a dispatch to the King of Spain, and also a val- 
uable present of gold, "taken," says Diaz, "in reality 
from his sideboard, but in such a manner that it 
should appear to be the produce of .his settlement." 

Cortez, to his extreme disappointment, found the 
country poor. There was no gold, and but little food. 
Worn down by anxiety and fatigue, he was ema- 
ciated in the extreme, and was so exceedingly feeble 
that his friends despaired of his life. Indeed, to Cor- 
tez, death seemed so near, that, with forethought 


characteristic of this enthusiast, he had made prepara- 
tions for his burial. 

One day, as Cortez, in the deepest dejection, was 
conversing with his friends, a vessel was discerned in 
the distant horizon of the sea. The ship had sailed 
from Havana, and brought to Cortez dispatches from 
Mexico. He retired to his apartment to read them. 
As he intently perused the documents, his friends in 
the ante-chamber heard him groan aloud in anguish. 
The tidings were indeed appalling, and sufficient to 
crush even the spirit of Cortez. For a whole day his 
distress was so great that he did not leave his room. 
The next morning he called for an ecclesiastic, confessed 
his sins, and ordered a mass. He then, somewhat 
calmed by devotion, read to his friends the intelligence 
he had received. 

It was reported in Mexico that the whole party 
which had entered upon the expedition to Honduras 
had perished. Consequently, all the property of the 
adventurers had been sold at public auction. The 
funeral service of Cortez had been celebrated with 
great pomp, a large part of his immense property 
having been devoted to defray the expenses. The 
deputies whom Cortez had left in charge of the gov- 
ernment had quarreled among themselves, and two 
strong parties rising up, the colony had been dis- 
tracted by civil war and bloodshed. Every day there 
was fighting. The natives, encouraged by these disor- 


ders, had revolted in three provinces. A force which 
had been sent to quell the insurrection had been at- 
tacked and defeated. 

The same dispatches also contained a letter from 
the father of Cortez, informing him that his enemies 
were busy, and successful in their intrigues in the 
court at Madrid, and that two very important colonies 
in Mexico had been wrested from his command, and 
placed, by order of the king, under the government 
of others. 

Cortez decided to return immediately, but privately, 
to Mexico. His enemies, who had usurped the gov- 
ernment, had given out that he was dead. Cortez 
was apprehensive that, were his return anticipated, 
he would be waylaid and assassinated. He therefore 
made arrangements for his friends to return by land, 
while he privately embarked for Vera Cruz. A violent 
storm arose, with head winds, and the vessel, after 
struggling a few days against the gale, was compelled, 
with shattered rigging, to return to Truxillo. Again, 
after a few days, the vessel weighed anchor, and again 
it was compelled to return. Cortez now, in extreme 
debility of body and dejection of mind, was exceed- 
ingly perplexed respecting his duty. "He ordered a 
solemn mass," says Diaz, "and prayed fervently to 
the Holy Ghost to enlighten him as to his future 

He now decided to remain in Truxillo, and to unite 


Honduras and Nicaragua into a colony which, in ex- 
tent and resources, would be worthy of him. He 
dispatched messengers with all speed to overtake his 
friends, who had undertaken to return by land, and 
recall them to Truxillo. They, however, refused to 
return. Again another messenger was dispatched to 
them by Cortez, with still more urgent entreaties. To 
this they replied by a letter, stating very firmly that 
they had suffered misfortunes enough already in fol- 
lowing him, and that they were determined to go 
back to Mexico. Sandoval, with a small retinue on 
horseback, took this answer to Cortez. He was also 
commissioned to do every thing in his power to per- 
suade Cortez also to embark again for Mexico. 

Though thus forsaken, he still refused to leave 
Honduras. Weakened by bodily sickness, which 
plunged him into the deepest melancholy, his usual 
energies were dormant. He, however, sent a confiden- 
tial servant, named Orantes, with a commission to 
Generals Alvarado and Las Casas, who had returned 
from Honduras to Mexico, to take charge of the gov- 
ernment and punish the usurpers. Orantes performed 
his mission successfully. The people, hearing with 
joy that Cortez was safe, rallied around the newly- 
appointed deputies, and the prominent usurpers were 
seized and imprisoned in a timber cage. Cortez re- 
mained in Honduras until he received intelligence that 
the disturbances in Mexico were quelled. He now 



decided to leave the government of Honduras in the 
hands of a lieutenant, and to return to Mexico. His 
health, however, was so very feeble that he hardly 
expected to survive the voyage. He therefore, before 
embarking, confessed his sins, partook of the sacra- 
ment, and settled all his worldly affairs. 

It was on the 25th of April, 1526, that the pale 
and emaciate adventurer, accompanied by a few fol- 
lowers, embarked on board a brigantine in the an- 
chorage at Truxillo. The morning was serene and 
cloudless, and a fresh breeze filled the unfurled sails. 
Rapidly the low line of the shores of Honduras sank 
below the horizon, and Cortez bade them adieu for- 

The Last Days of Cortez. 

The party are obliged to put into Havana for repairs. — Triumphal march to 
the capital. — Reception at Tezcuco. — Enemies at work. — Serious charges. 

— The commissioners. — Offers of courtesy. — The banquet. — Unfortunate 
effects. — Notice for complainants. — Leon's sudden death.— Its cause. — 

. Aguilar's administration. — He determines to return to Spain. — Recep- 
tion of the emperor. — Marquis of the valley. — Captain General. — Cor- 
tez's marriage. — Envy of the queen. — He embarks for New Spain. — Ef- 
fects of displeasing a queen. — Cortez's abode. — The contrast. — He goes 
to Cuarnavaca. — Devotes himself to industrial interests. — The expedi- 
tions and failures. — Cortez heads another party. — Arrival at Santa Cruz. 

— The fleet returns. — Disasters. — Discontent. — Search for the vessels. — 
The colonists eat too voraciously. — Cortez resolves to replenish his re- 
sources. — Departure for Spain. — Neglect and disappointment. — Letter 
to the emperor. — Unavailing appeal. — The will. — His bequests. — An 
uneasy conscience. — Removal to Castilleja. — Cortez's death. — His fu- 
neral. — The removal of his remains. — Solemnities. — The monument 
erected over his remains. 

For a few days a fair wind bore the voyagers 
rapidly forward over a sunny sea. They had 
arrived nearly within sight of the Mexican 
shore, when clouds blackened the sky, and a trop- 
ical tempest came howling fiercely upon them. The 
light brigantine was driven before the gale like 
a bubble, and, after being tossed for several days 
upon the angry deep, the voyagers found themselves 
near the island of Cuba, and were compelled to en- 
ter the harbor of Havana for repairs and supplies. 



It was not until the 16th of May that they were 
enabled again to set sail. After a voyage of eight 
days, Cortez landed near St. Juan de Ulua. Here he 
assumed an incognito, and proceeded on foot fifteen 
miles to Medellin. His aspect was so changed by 
sickness and dejection that no one recognized him. 
Here he made himself known, and was immediately 
received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of 
joy. He now pressed forward to the capital in truly 
a triumphal march. The whole country was aroused, 
and processions, triumphal arches, bonfires, and music, 
with the ringing of bells and the roaring of cannon, 
greeted him all the way. The natives vied with the 
Spaniards in the cordiality of their welcome and in 
splendor of their pageants. 

Arrangements were made to receive him at the 
capital with a triumphant fete. He arrived at Tez- 
cuco, on the borders of the lake, in the evening, and 
there passed the night. It was now the lovely month 
of June. The sun the next morning rose cloudless, 
and smiled upon a scene of marvelous beauty, em- 
bellished by all the attractions of hills, and valleys, 
and placid waters. The lake was alive with the dec- 
orated boats of the natives, and the air was filled 
with the hum of peace and joy. Smiles again flitted 
over the wan and pallid cheeks of Cortez as the 
shouts of the multitude, blending v/ith the clarion peals 
of the trumpet, the chime of bells, and the thunders 


of artillery fell upon his ear. He immediately repaired 
to the church publicly to return thanks to God for all 
his mercies. He then retired to his magnificent palace, 
and again assumed the responsibilities of government. 

The enemies of Cortez were still indefatigable in 
the court of Charles V., and they so multiplied and 
reiterated their charges that the emperor deemed it 
expedient to order an investigation. He was charged 
with withholding gold which belonged to the crown, 
of secreting the treasures of Guatemozin, of defraud- 
ing the revenues by false reports, and of surrounding 
himself with grandeur and power that he might as- 
sert independence of Spain, and establish himself in 
unlimited sovereignty. 

A commissioner, Luis Ponce de Leon, was accord- 
ingly sent by the emperor to assume the government 
of Mexico temporarily, and to bring Cortez to trial. 
But a few weeks had passed after Cortez returned to 
the capital before this messenger arrived. Cortez, 
surprised by his sudden appearance, was greatly per- 
plexed as to the course he should pursue,, The in- 
telligence was communicated to him as he was per- 
forming his devotions in the church of St. Francis^ 
"He earnestly," says Diaz, "prayed to the Lord to 
guide him as seemed best to his holy wisdom, and, 
on coming out of the church, sent an express to 
bring him information of ail particulars." 

After much painful deliberation, Cortez decided to 

' M. of H.- XV— 18 


receive the royal commissioner with apparent courtesy 
and submission. He sent to him a friendly message, 
wishing to know which of two roads he intended to 
take on his approach to the capital, that he might be 
met and greeted with suitable honors. The friends 
of Leon cautioned him to be on his guard, for they 
assured him that Cortez would, if possible, secure his 
assassination. Leon warily sent word that, fatigued 
by his voyage, he should not immediately visit the 
capital, but should rest for a time. Having dispatched 
this message, he immediately mounted his horse, and, 
with his retinue, commenced his journey. The vigi- 
lant officer of Cortez, however, met him at Iztapalapan. 
A sumptuous banquet was prepared, and some de- 
licious cheese-cakes were placed upon the table. All 
who ate of the cheese-cakes were taken sick, and it 
was reported far and wide that Cortez had attempted 
to poison Leon with arsenic. There is no proof that 
Cortez was guilty. The circumstances alone, as we 
have stated them, awakened suspicion. These suspi- 
cions were fearfully increased by unfortunate events, 
to which we shall soon allude. 

Leon arrived in the city of Mexico, and in the 
presence of all the civil and military officers produced 
his authority from the emperor, Charles V., to assume 
the governorship of the colony, and to bring Cortez 
to trial. The humbled and wretched conqueror kissed 
the document in token of submission- 


Leon now issued public notice that all who had 
complaints to bring against the administration of 
Cortez should produce them. A host of enemies — 
for all men in power must have enemies — immedi- 
ately arose. The court was flooded with accusations 
without number. Just as Leon was opening the court 
to give a hearing to these charges, he was seized 
with a sudden and a mysterious sickness. After ly- 
ing in a state of lethargy for four days, he died. In a 
lucid moment, he appointed an officer named Aguilar, 
who had accompanied him from Castile, as his suc- 
cessor. "What malignities and slanders," exclaims 
Diaz, "were now circulated against Cortez by his 
enemies in Mexico!" The faithful historian, however, 
affirms that Leon died of what is now called the ship 
fever. Notwithstanding all these unfortunate appear- 
ances, it is generally believed that Cortez was not 
abetting in his death. 

Aguilar was a weak and infirm old man, so in- 
firm that "he was obliged to drink goat's milk, and 
to be suckled by a Castilian woman to keep him 
alive." This decrepit septuagenarian could accomplish 
nothing, and after a vacillating and utterly powerless 
administration of eight months, during which time 
the influence of Cortez was continually increasing, he 
died. The treasurer, Estrada, by the governor's tes- 
tament, was appointed his successor. The affairs of 
the colony were now in a state of great confusion. 


These new governors were imbecile men, totally in- 
capable of command. The popular voice, in this 
emergency, loudly called upon Cortez to assume the 
helm. Estrada, alarmed by this, issued a decree or- 
dering the instant expulsion of Cortez from the city 
of Mexico. Cortez, thus persecuted, resolved to re- 
turn to Spain, and to plead for justice in the court 
of his sovereign. At the same time, he received let- 
ters informing him of the death of his father, and of 
the renewed activity of his enemies at court. 

Purchasing two ships, he stored them with a great 
abundance of provisions, and by a proclamation of- 
fered a free passage to any Spaniard who could ob- 
tain permission from the governor to return to Spain. 
After a voyage of forty days he landed on the 
shores of his country, at the little port of Palos, in 
the month of December, 1527. Cortez immediately 
sent an express to his majesty, informing him of his 
arrival. In much state he traveled through Seville 
and Guadaloupe to Madrid, winning golden opinions 
all the way by his courtly manners and his profuse 

Upon his arrival at Madrid, he was received by 
the emperor with great courtesy. Cortez threw him- 
self at the feet of his majesty, enumerated the services 
he had performed, and vindicated himself from the 
aspersions of his enemies. The monarch seemed sat- 
isfied, ordered him to rise, and immediately conferred 


upon him the title of Marquis of the Valley, with a 
rich estate to support the dignity. Cortez fell sick, 
and the emperor honored him with a visit in person. 
Many other marks of the royal favor Cortez received, 
which so encouraged him that he began to assume 
haughty airs, and applied to the emperor that he 
might be appointed governor of New Spain. The 
emperor was displeased, declined giving him the ap- 
pointment, and a coldness ensued. Cortez, however, 
at length regained some favor, and obtained the title 
of Captain General of New Spain, with permission to 
fit out two ships on voyages of discovery to the 
south seas. He was also entitled to receive, as 
proprietor, one twelfth of the lands he should dis- 
cover, and to rule over the countries he might 

Cortez was now a man of wealth and renown. 
His manners were highly imposing, his conversation 
was rich and impressive, and his favor at court gave 
him a vast influence. His income amounted to about 
one hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year. 
There was no family in Spain which would not have 
felt honored by his alliance, and when he sought the 
hand of the young, beautiful, and accomplished niece 
of the Duke of Bejar, his addresses were eagerly ac- 
cepted. The storm-worn yet still handsome cavalier 
led to the altar his blushing bride so glittering with 
brilliant jewels, cut by the exquisite workmanship of 


the Aztecs, as to excite the envy even of the queen 
of Charles V. 

Cortez soon became weary of a life of idleness 
and luxury, and longed again for the stirring adven- 
tures of the New World. Early in the spring of 1530. 
he again embarked, with his wife and mother, for 
New Spain. With his characteristic zeal for the con- 
version of the natives, he took with him twelve 
reverend fathers of the Church. After a short tarry 
at Hispaniola, he landed at Vera Cruz on the 15th of 
July. As it was feared that Cortez might interfere 
with the government of the country, the Queen of 
Spain, who was quite displeased that the wife of Cor- 
tez wore more brilliant jewels than she possessed, 
had issued an edict prohibiting Cortez from approach- 
ing within thirty miles of the Mexican capital. He 
accordingly established himself at one of his country 
estates, on the eastern shores of the lake. His re- 
nown gave him vast influence. From all parts of the 
country crowds flocked to greet him. With regal 
pomp he received his multitudinous guests, and his 
princely residence exhibited all the splendors of a 
court. Most of the distinguished men of the city of 
Mexico crossed the lake to Tezcuco to pay homage 
to the conqueror of Mexico. The governor was so 
annoyed by the mortifying contrast presented by his 
own deserted court, that he despotically imposed a 
fine upon such of the natives of the city as should be 


found in Tezcuco, and, affecting to apprehend a trea- 
sonable attack from Cortez, made ostentatious prepa- 
rations for the defense of the capital. 

For a long time there was an incessant and petty 
conflict going on between Cortez and the jealous 
government of the colony. At - last, Cortez became so 
annoyed by indignities which his haughty spirit 
keenly felt, that he withdrew still farther from the 
capital, to the city of Cuarnavaca, which was situated 
upon the southern slope of the Cordilleras. This was 
the most beautiful and opulent portion of that wide 
domain which the energy of Cortez had annexed to 
the Spanish crown. Here the conqueror had erected 
for himself a magnificent palace in the midst of his 
vast estates. The ruins of the princely mansion still 
remain upon an eminence which commands a wide 
extent of landscape of surpassing loveliness. Cortez 
devoted himself with characteristic energy to promot- 
ing the agricultural and industrial interests of the 
country. Thousands of hands were guided to the 
culture of hemp and flax. Sugar-mills were reared, 
and gold and silver mines were worked with great 
success. Cortez thus became greatly enriched, but his 
adventurous spirit soon grew weary of these peaceful 

In the year 1532, Cortez, at a large expense, fitted 
out an expedition, consisting of two ships, to explore 
the Pacific Ocean in search of new lands. The ships 


sailed from the port of Acapulco, but, to the bitter 
disappointment of Cortez, the enterprise was entirely 
unsuccessful. The crew mutinied, and took posses- 
sion of one of the ships, and the other probably foun- 
dered at sea, for it was never again heard from. 

But the Marquis of the Valley, with his indom- 
itable spirit of energy and perseverance, fitted out an- 
other expedition of two ships. This adventure was 
as disastrous as the other. The two captains quar- 
reled, and took occasion of a storm to separate, and 
did not again join company. The southern extremity 
of the great peninsula of California was, however, dis- 
covered by one of the ships. Here, at a point which 
they called Santa Cruz, a large part of the ship's com- 
pany was massacred by the savages. The storm- 
battered ships eventually returned, having accom- 
plished nothing. 

Cortez, still undismayed, prepared for another at- 
tempt. He now, however, resolved to take command 
of the ships himself. His celebrity induced adven- 
turers from all quarters to seek to join the expedition. 
Three ships were launched upon the bay of Tehuan- 
tepec. Many men crowded on board, with their fam- 
ilies, to colonize the new lands which should be dis- 
covered. More than twice as many adventurers as 
the ships could carry thronged the port, eager to 
embark in the enterprise. In the month of May, 
1537, the squadron set sail upon the calm surface of 


the Pacific, the decks being crowded with four hun- 
dred Spaniards and three hundred slaves. About an 
equal number were left behind, to be sent for as 
soon as the first party should be landed at the port 
of their destination. 

Sailing in a northwesterly direction, favorable 
winds drove them rapidly across the vast Gulf of 
California until they arrived at Santa Cruz, on the 
southern extremity of that majestic peninsula. A 
landing was immediately effected, and the ships were 
sent back to Mexico to bring the remaining colonists. 
Cortez did not take his wife with him, but she was 
left in their princely mansion on the southern slope 
of the Cordilleras. But disasters seemed to accumu- 
late whenever Cortez was not personally present. 
The ships were delayed by head winds and by 
storms. The colonists at Santa Cruz, in consequence 
of this delay, nearly perished of famine. Twenty- 
three died of privation and hunger. At .length, in 
the midst of general murmurings and despair, one 
of the ships returned. It brought, however, but 
little relief, as the ships which were loaded with 
provisions for the supply of the colonists were still 

The discontent in the starving colony became so 
loud, that Cortez himself took fifty soldiers and em- 
barked in search of the missing ships. With great 
care he cruised along the Mexican shore, and at last 


found one stranded on the coast of Jalisco, and the 
other partially wrecked upon some rocks. He, how- 
ever, got them both off, repaired them, and brought 
them, laden with provisions, to the half-famished col- 
ony at Vera Cruz. 

The imprudent colonists ate so voraciously that a 
fatal disease broke out among them, which raged 
with the utmost virulence. Many died. Cortez be- 
came weary of these scenes of woe. The expedition, 
in a pecuniary point of view, had been a total failure, 
and it had secured for the conqueror no additional 
renown. The Marchioness of the Valley, the wife of 
Cortez, became so anxious at the long absence of her 
husband, that she fitted out two ships to go in search 
of him. Ulloa, who commanded these ships, was so 
fortunate as to trace Cortez to his colony. Cortez 
not unwillingly yielded to the solicitations of his wife 
and returned to Mexico. He was soon followed by 
the rest of the wretched colonists, and thus disas- 
trously terminated this expedition. 

In these various enterprises, Cortez had expended 
from his private property over three hundred thou- 
sand crowns, and had received nothing in return. As 
he considered himself the servant of his sovereign, 
and regarded these efforts as undertaken to promote 
the glory and the opulence of Spain, he resolved to 
return to Castile, to replenish, if possible, his ex- 
hausted resources from the treasury of the crown. 


He had also sundry disputes with the authorities in 
Mexico which he wished to refer to the arbitration of 
the emperor. He was a disappointed and a melancholy 
man. His career had been one of violence and of 
blood, and "his ill fortune," says Diaz, "is ascribed 
to the curses with which he was loaded." 

Taking with him his eldest son and heir, Don 
Martin, the child of Donna Marina, then but eight 
years of age, and leaving behind him the rest of his 
family, he embarked in 1540 again to return to his 
native land. The emperor was absent, but Cortez 
was received by the court and by the nation with the 
highest testimonials of respect. Courtesy was lav- 
ished upon him, but he could obtain nothing more. 
For a year the unhappy old man plead his cause, 
while daily the victim of hope deferred. He might 
truly have said with Cardinal Wolsey, 

" Had I but served my God with half the zeal 
I served my king, he would not in mine age 
Have left me naked to mine enemies." 

Cortez soon found himself neglected and avoided. 
His importunities became irksome. Two or three 
years of disappointment and gloom passed heavily 
away, when, in 1544, Cortez addressed a last and a 
touching letter to the emperor. 

"I had hoped," writes the world-weary old man, 


"that the toils of my youth would have secured me 
repose in my old age. For forty years I have lived 
with but little sleep, with bad food, and with weap- 
ons of war continually at my side. I have endured 
all peril, and spent my substance in exploring distant 
and unknown regions, that I might spread abroad the 
name of my sovereign, and extend his sway over 
powerful nations. This I have done without aid from 
home, and in the face of those who thirsted for my 
blood. I am now aged, infirm, and overwhelmed 
with debt." He concluded this affecting epistle by 
beseeching the emperor to "order the Council of the 
Indies, with the other tribunals which had cognizance 
of his suits, to come to a decision, since I am too 
old to wander about like a vagrant, but ought rather, 
during the brief remainder of my life, to remain at 
home and settle my account with heaven, occupied 
with the concerns of my soul rather than with my 

His appeal was unavailing. For three more weary 
years he lingered about the court, hoping, in the 
midst of disappointments and intermittent despair, to 
attain his ends. But at last all hope expired, and the 
poor old man, with shattered health and a crushed 
spirit, prepared to return to Mexico in gloom and 
obscurity to die. He had proceeded as far as Seville, 
when, overcome by debility and dejection, he could 


go no farther. It was soon apparent to all that his 
last hour was at hand. The dying man, with mind 
still vigorous, immediately executed his will. This 
long document is quite characteristic of its author. 
He left nine children, five of whom were born out of 
wedlock. He remembered them all affectionately in 
his paternal bequests. 

He founded a theological seminary "at Cojuhacan, in 
one of the provinces of Mexico, for the education of 
missionaries to preach the Gospel among the natives. 
A convent of nuns he also established in the same 
place, in the chapel of which he wished his remains 
to be deposited. He also founded a hospital in the 
city of Mexico, to be dedicated to Our Lady of the 

In these solemn hours of approaching death, his 
conscience does not appear to have disturbed him at all 
in reference to his wars of invasion and conquest, and 
the enormous slaughter which they had caused, but 
he was troubled in view of the slavery to which they 
had doomed the poor Mexicans. With dying hand 
he inscribes the following remarkable lines: 

"It has long been a question whether one can 
conscientiously hold property in Indian slaves. Since 
this point has not yet been determined, I enjoin it on 
my son Martin and his heirs that they spare no pains 
to come to an exact knowledge of the truth, as a 


matter which concerns the conscience of each one of 
them no less than mine." 

As the noise of the city disturbed the dying man, 
he was removed to the neighboring village of Cas- 
tilleja. His son, then but fifteen years of age, 
watched over his venerated father, and nursed him 
with filial affection. On the second day of Decem- 
ber, fifteen hundred and forty-seven, Cortez died, in 
the sixty-third year of his age. He was buried with 
great pomp in the tomb of the Duke of Medina Sido- 
nia at Seville. A vast concourse of the inhabitants 
of the whole surrounding country attended his funeral. 
Five years after his death, in 1562, his son Martin 
removed his remains to Mexico, and deposited them, 
not at Cojuhacan, as Cortez had requested, but in a 
family vault in the monastery at Tezcuco. Here the 
remains of Cortez reposed for sixty-seven years. In 
1629 the Mexican authorities decided to transfer them 
to Mexico, to be deposited beneath the church of St. 
Francis. The occasion was celebrated with all the ac- 
companiments of religious and military pomp. The 
bells tolled the funeral knell, and from muffled drums 
and martial bands sublime requiems floated forth over 
the still waters of the lake, as the mortal remains of 
Cortez were borne over the long causeway, where he 
had displayed such superhuman energy during the 
horrors of the dismal night. 


Here the ashes of Cortez reposed undisturbed for 
one hundred and sixty-five years, when the mould- 
ering relics were again removed in 1794, and were 
more conspicuously enshrined in the Hospital of Our 
Lady of the Conception, which Cortez had founded 
and endowed. A crystal coffin, secured with bars of 
iron, inclosed the relics, over which a costly and 
beautiful monument was reared. 


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